MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - ESPN honored the Memphis Grizzlies for their commitment to serving the local community by naming them one of the top four finalists for the third annual Sports Humanitarian Team of the Year Award. The award aims to celebrate and honor athletes who are using the power of sports to make a positive impact on society.
The Grizzlies are the only NBA team represented among the finalists, alongside the Chicago White Sox, New York City Football Club and the San Francisco 49ers. The Memphis players have worked consistently through a variety of programs to impact children and adults across the area.
The Grizzlies focus a lot of their efforts on educational programs and helped start the only charter school in the country branded by an NBA team, Grizzlies Prep. The school serves low-income boys living in under-served communities. In the past five years, the school helped to close the achievement gap through resources and support the team has been able to provide.
The Grizzlies are also helping prepare students for a lifetime of success through TEAM Mentor, a program for seventh and eighth graders to start developing professional skills and building relationships. The Grizzlies Scholars Program aims to increase opportunities for African-American, high-performing students to receive a more rigorous education.
Aside from educational initiatives, the Grizzlies have also flag-shipped many programs hoping to encourage children to be active and health conscious. GrizzFit is an organization that introduces youth to different types of exercise and educates them on healthy life choices. Grizzlies center Marc Gasol even started his own namesake program to promote healthy living and reduce childhood obesity, The Gasol Foundation.
Zach Randolph also started his own program to help those across the area in financial need through the Zach Randolph Community Assistance Fund.
As a finalist for the award, the Grizzlies will be given a $25,000 grant to help fund a charity related to their award-winning efforts. If they win, that grant will become $100,000. Laila Ali and ESPN's Mike Greenberg will host the awards event on July 11 in Los Angeles followed by an ESPN special program on July 25.