With great power comes great responsibility, and we’re happy to report Zach LaVine appears to be using his incredible dunking abilities for good, not evil.
According to the Associated Press, the two-time NBA dunk contest champion is using his winnings from the event to benefit the Metro Deaf School, a school in St. Paul, Minnesota that serves hearing-impaired students.
LaVine was on hand Monday for a ribbon-cutting ceremony on the school’s new kitchen, which was paid for in part by the money LaVine won after beating Orlando’s Aaron Gordon in an epic slam dunk contest at All-Star weekend last month.
“The biggest part for me growing up was interacting with kids during lunch time and recess,” LaVine said. “They get all their meals catered in. I just thought it would be cool for them to be able to socialize and be able to hang out with each other, eat food together, instead of having to sit in class and eat and regular stuff.”
LaVine first took interest in the hearing-impaired community when he took a sign language class in high school. According to the AP, LaVine and his friends used sign language on the basketball court to convey messages their opponents couldn’t understand, which seems like a pretty handy tool.
The cutest part of this story, though, is the description him interacting with the students at the school he visited.
“The kids were like, `He knows how to sign!” said Susan Lane-Outlaw, the school’s executive director. “That’s the biggest thing. He knows American Sign Language. I think the kids connect with that. From there it just blossomed.”
Estrella Rayner, a basketball-playing student from the Minneapolis suburb of Eagan, was asked to scout LaVine’s sign language game.
“He’s working on it,” she signed. “I do play basketball, but to actually see a pro athlete that we can actually communicate with, it makes it all the better.”
LaVine, who is averaging 13.8 points per game as a 21-year-old this season, says his sign language skills are somewhat rusty, but it’s pretty impressive and interesting he knows ASL at all.
“Sometimes they lose me. But just seeing, oh wow he can do this, is kind of cool,” LaVine said. “It would be like the same thing if I saw one of them come to a basketball court and dribble between their legs and shoot it, I would be like, `whoa wait a minute, I can relate with this kid.”
Maybe LaVine will teach the language to his teammates so they can communicate without calling out instructions, forcing every other team to learn sign language to keep up! Or maybe not.
But regardless, it’s nice that LaVine is dunking for a good cause.