For Avery Bradley, attending a Black History Month event that brought 30 JROTC students from Boston English High to the Celtics' practice facility in Waltham Thursday afternoon was not only significant because it celebrated his heritage but also because it reminded him of his father.
The Celtics guard remembered his childhood in a military family fondly, despite the fact that he had to shine his father’s boots.
“Growing up in a military family, being the youngest, I was never allowed to do anything, anything, my dad wouldn’t let me do anything,” Bradley told the JROTC students. “People would notice how respectful I am because I grew up in a military family.
“I thought it was cool that you guys were able to come here today, that I could learn what you guys do. For me it brings back memories. It seems like yesterday my dad was in the Army. I wanted to be in the Army. My other dream came true and I got into the NBA. I’m happy you guys came today and I hope you learned a lot and had fun because you got to learn about African-American history and I feel like that’s very important.”
Sponsored by the Massachusetts Army National Guard and the Celtics, the event featured Bradley and former Celtics Keyon Dooling and Walter McCarty.
The players and members of the National Guard helped the students review significant events and time periods in African-American history before playing a Jeopardy-style trivia game.
“I meet people I never thought I’d meet before, especially Avery Bradley,” said sophomore Julin Smith-Sparks, who plays on English’s JV basketball team. “I think he’s a good player. It’s exciting to see him. It’s cool, it’s exciting, it’s an amazing moment. It means a lot to celebrate Black History Month. Nobody forgot about it. I appreciate that a lot.”
English girls’ basketball coach Justine Grace served as a chaperon.
“I was happy to be part of it when they asked me,” she said. “And it’s always good to be part of the Celtics. The program is so great for Black History Month, the kids are learning something and excited to meet the players.”
The students also got a chance to shoot around on the Celtics’ practice floor, which Grace was also excited about.
“I brought my stuff so I’m ready to go,” she said.
The students were also awarded two tickets to an upcoming Celtics game and two students, Jorge Maldanado and Miasia Kemp, won sneakers signed by Bradley.
"They won a signed pair of Avery Bradley shoes which is cool because I practice in them every day," Bradley said. "Hopefully they wear the same size as me and they can wear them out after school. Show them off a little bit.
“It’s definitely cool. I never had an opportunity to ever meet an NBA player [growing up] and for them to leave school and be able to meet an NBA player and learn about black history, I think that’s amazing.”
The Celtics and the Massachusetts Army National Guard have also been highlighting significant events in African-American history during home games this month and on Celtics.com.
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