Mashaun Alston’s office has a corkboard with pictures of some of the kids he has helped over the years. A basketball player in his uniform. A row of smiling teenagers.
On one side of the room there is a framed quote that reads http://www.jaguarsauthorizedshops.com/authentic-dj-chark-jersey , ”All those who achieve great things are great dreamers.”
Alston, 41, is definitely dreaming. In one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Chicago, he is dreaming of more graduations and birthday parties. Life for a group of kids on the edge.
”I can be overwhelmed, but then when I go home … I never say I’m not doing this, I always reflect and say, `Wow, this kid is going through this,’ and then the next day, I’m renewed,” Alston said.
Alston is a therapist in Choose to Change, a five-month program that aims to reduce youth violence through therapy and mentorship. And it very well might be gone by now if not for the effort of one unusual coalition.
The Cubs, White Sox, Bears, Bulls and Blackhawks. The titans of Chicago sports, united with a singular purpose.
Near the end of a violent 2016 in Chicago, Roseanna Ander went to a meeting. Ander http://www.lionsauthorizedshops.com/authentic-kerryon-johnson-jersey , the executive director of the University of Chicago Crime Lab, goes to a lot of meetings, but this one was different.
The room included White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf and his son, Michael, the president and chief operating officer of the Bulls. Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts and his sister, Laura, who also is part of the Cubs’ ownership group, were there. Same for Bears chairman George McCaskey and Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz.
”It was like a very Godfather-esque moment,” Ander said with a grin.
Concerned about a precipitous rise in violent crime – Chicago had 762 homicides in 2016, a 64 percent increase from 485 in the previous year – the city’s most prominent sports executives had an idea, and they were looking for help.
”They decided that this was a very unprecedented challenge facing the city and they wanted to do something unprecedented,” Ander said, ”and that was really to try to see if putting their resources together that they might be able to do something more significant than they could each do independently.”
It began with Jerry Reinsdorf, 82, who once lived in some of the South Side neighborhoods that have been racked by violence. He took the idea of a united effort to the rest of the owners, and they quickly signed on for what became the Chicago Sports Alliance.
Then came the tricky part.
”It became very clear that we really didn’t understand what was behind the homicides and the violence,” Michael Reinsdorf said. ”We all had ideas and theories http://www.falconsauthorizedshops.com/authentic-logan-paulsen-jersey , but we really weren’t as educated as we should be.
”We decided instead of just jumping in there and making some type of investment, let’s get smarter.”
That led the group to Ander and the Crime Lab, which was created in 2008 following the shooting death of a graduate student at the University of Chicago to study crime and develop and evaluate crime-reduction programs. While the room grabbed Ander’s attention, her presentation struck a chord with the group.
”It’s just tough,” Michael Reinsdorf said. ”I have kids and we teach our kids that they can dream and they can do anything they want and they have such incredible opportunities. But the kids that we’re talking about trying to help in some of these communities, their dreams are totally different than the dreams of like my children.
”Their dreams are like, surviving. … Their expectations are I won’t live a long life.”
Alston had a group session in May where only one of the six young men showed. It was a nice day in Chicago and graduation festivities were in full swing.
The 17-year-old who made it to the session was depressed about the death of his cousin in January. He wanted to retaliate sometimes, but he said the program was keeping him on the right track.
”He says, `Yeah, but this group,’ he says, `since I’ve been coming in February is helping me think,”’ Alston said.
A buoyed Alston kept going, sitting straight up in his chair in a common room down the hall from his office on the city’s South Side.
”You know just with the people he knows, the family he’s involved with, it’d be easy to go and retaliate,” he continued.
”I want you to think logical. If you go retaliate and you’re 17 Justin Bethel Color Rush Jersey , there’s two things going to happen. You may get away with it for a little bit. But you’re going to end up dead because they’re going to retaliate, or you’re going to be in jail and you’re 17, I want you to get to my age.”
The Chicago Sports Alliance was unveiled in December. The teams announced a total of $1 million in one-time grants for Choose to Change, the Crime Lab and for training for embedded civilian analysts who work with the police department to develop strategies to reduce crime in the city’s most violent areas.
While the money provided a lift, the alliance itself might have made an even bigger statement.
”It’s not just the dollars, but I think it’s kind of who they are, their ability to have influence with such a huge range of the population,” Ander said. ”But I do think for me the most important thing was sending a message that this isn’t just somebody else’s problem to fix.”
The funding for Choose to Change had run out by the end of 2017, so the money from the alliance kept it alive for the first part of this year. Another group of teenagers w Andre Iguodala knocked down another clutch 3-pointer and let out some rare emotion, triumphantly reaching his arms out wide as he ran back to the defensive end. The Golden State swingman had thrown down a spectacular alley-oop dunk only 31 seconds earlier, and he was feeling it as the clocked ticked away on a second straight lopsided playoff win.
There’s something about Iguodala in the postseason. He paces himself through the regular season to be fresh and ready – and sometimes dominant – on the big stage for the defending NBA champions.
”Everyone gets hyped when Andre gets hyped because that’s a rare occurrence,” teammate Klay Thompson said. ”You might see it on the golf course.”
It’s just what the short-handed Warriors were hoping to see.
Iguodala is back in the starting lineup for Golden State’s first-round series against the Spurs, filling in for Stephen Curry as the two-time MVP recovers from a sprained left knee. That’s how versatile Iguodala is: the 6-foot-6 swingman can be inserted in place of a point guard. The Warriors will go for a 3-0 lead Thursday when the best-of-seven series shifts to San Antonio.
At 34, Iguodala knows how to take care of himself over the long grind of an NBA season, all to be prepared to do whatever is asked of him in the playoffs.
”For us to be able to throw Andre out there really 1 through 4 both offensively and defensively, it’s an incredibly valuable weapon,” coach Steve Kerr said.
That’s when he has been at his brilliant best for the Warriors – and they are getting their money’s worth from a major investment last summer.
Many feared he might leave Authentic Blake McLaughlin Jersey , but Iguodala received a $48 million, three-year contract to stay put and chase another championship. Even if he could have landed a bigger role elsewhere.
”Well, we met with him and we gave him our pitch and lots of money so we were hoping he wasn’t going to leave,” Kerr said. ”I didn’t anticipate him leaving because he knows this is a great situation for him and we rewarded him for everything he’s done and for what we think he can do for us. I think this year was a good example of that. A lot of people were grumbling about he’s not shooting the ball well or whatever. … It’s the incredible defense, amazing awareness, intelligence, leadership.”
Iguodala keeps it simple, whether he’s in the lineup or coming off the bench: ”Just try to do whatever it takes to help the team get over the hump and get a win.”
In 2015, Kerr moved Iguodala into the starting lineup, and he became Finals MVP as the franchise captured its first championship in 40 years.
Golden State is hoping for the same this spring. Iguodala had only started seven times before Game 1 of the playoffs Saturday, when he had seven rebounds, four assists and three points.
That’s after he missed four of the final five regular season games with a sore left knee.
”He’s definitely got to pace himself, the man’s played so much hoops in the last 15 years,” Thompson said. ”Andre is a gamer. He is going to step up in the biggest moments, and right now it’s the playoffs. We have all the trust in the world for him, that’s why he’s a Finals MVP.”
On Monday, Iguodala finished with 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting with four 3-pointers Brandon Parker Color Rush Jersey , seven rebounds, five assists, a steal and a block.
And he can guard anybody.
”His hands are so good. That’s the small thing that people don’t realize, he’s got great hands when he gets steals,” Kevin Durant said. ”So guys are just thinking about that when they’re trying to score on him. As a scorer you’ve got to think about something other than getting to your spots or getting into your rhythm and it throws you off just a little bit. And that’s all you need to guard the best player, just for them to think just a tiny bit and Dre does that.”
Iguodala was part of the Warriors group that traveled to the Hamptons to persuade Durant to join a super team in July 2016.
”I always knew what Andre could do,” Durant said. ”I played two USA teams with him, so I kind of knew his value. He’s not one of those guys that’s going to go out and say, `Here, Dre, give us 30 points.’ He’s one of those who can do just about everything good – he can shoot, he can pass, he can dribble, he can defend, he can rebound, he can do all those things really good. It’s not like he wants to do one thing more than the other.”