One Team and Special Olympics teamed up once again on Saturday morning to take over Center Court at the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague FanZone at Marmara Forum in Istanbul.
Euroleague Basketball's social responsibility program One Team has made a big impact since its foundation in 2012, working with proud partner Special Olympics to help improve the lives of vulnerable people in local communities all over the continent.
The association between One Team and Special Olympics was given the spotlight again at the FanZone on Saturday, when One Team Ambassadors from the competing teams in the Final Four took part in a fun session with Special Olympics athletes.
Global One Team Ambassador Kyle Hines of CSKA Moscow, Fenerbahce Istanbul's Ahmet Duverioglu, Othello Hunter from Real Madrid and Olympiacos Piraeus pair Kostas Papanikolaou and Ioannis Papapetrou all took time out of their Final Four weekend to help One Team honor Special Olympics athletes by sharing time with them in the middle of the party atmosphere at the FanZone.
The activities were led by One Team coaches and attended by dignitaries Jordi Bertomeu, CEO and President of Euroleague Basketball; Mehmet Civelek, Chairman of Special Olympics Turkey; and Miroslaw Krogulec, Director of Sports and Organizational Development for Special Olympics and Mehmet Macun, representing the Turkish Airlines corporate social responsibility department.
"Since we started cooperating with Special Olympics, both sides have put efforts together to benefit these special athletes," Bertomeu said. "I think our players are very excited to be part of One Team. We are very proud of our players, and this is how we can contribute. And it is also part of our responsibility. Thanks to our players we can hold these great activities."
"These kids have waited of this moment all season long, especially with the Final Four being here in Istanbul this year," Mr. Civelek said. "It was a big goal for them to attend this One Team Session."
The session of EuroLeague stars with young Special Olympians got the attention of the many thousands of visitors in the FanZone, who cheered when baskets were scored. The activities were designed to be competitive, but more importantly, to showcase the values that One Team and Special Olympics represent. The players got so involved that they even requested that the nutrition pyramid exercise go to overtime!
Madrid big man Hunter might have been on the losing side in the semifinals the night before, but on Saturday morning, everybody won.
"This event makes last night's loss a lot easier," Hunter said. "You have kids out here who love the game, and want to have fun, which puts a smile on my face. It is not just about us playing basketball, it is about these kids. I wish when I was younger I had guys who would come talk with me and play basketball with me. For them it is definitely special, and it is a good feeling to be here."