MIAMI, F.L. — Children laughing and playing games, people taking pictures with their favorite Miami Heat basketball players and coaches, a silent auction involving autographed jerseys, shoes, and pictures, and the best food in Miami can sum up this past weekend’s event. All proceeds benefit Jackson Memorial Foundation’s Guardian Angels, SafeSpace domestic violence shelter, the Miami Coalition for a Safe & Drug Free Community and Project Mediashare.
Every year the teams gives a day to the organizations they raise money for and attracts some of the best restaurants and chefs in Miami as well as have great games for the kids. They had ponies, cowboys on horses in Miami, a mechanical bull, a small basketball court, massages and it is all free. It is more than pleasing to see such busy athletes giving back to the community in the way of inspiration. Children got to shoot hoops with Dwayne Wade for an hour and then he emceed a mechanical bull riding competition between the kiddies.
After an amazing weekend in Miami this was certainly a great way to top it all off. Fortunately, I enjoyed two NBA games (Heat vs. Lakers and Heat vs. Hawks), golf, plus this thanks to Keith Askins, assistant coach of the Miami Heat and a close personal friend. The opportunity to spend such a weekend only happens to few and I thank my brother and Coach Askins for making it all possible. The weekend started on Thursday with a round of golf at Emerald Hills Golf Club, which is a gorgeous place to play. Next, we got home and got ready for the matchup between the Kobe Bryant and Dwayne Wade. And a matchup it was, with Wade and Bryant and others making nearly every minute of the game as interesting as the next.
I got to mingle with Albert Pujols, who was eating dinner next to me before the game in the Flagship, a restaurant in the American Airlines Arena that hosts the likes of Gabrielle Union, Eric Spoelstra, Tim Hardaway, Alonzo Mourning, and other celebrities. The best part was celebrating with Coach Askins and his friends after the game. I got to hear many stories that only inspire me to one day be able to achieve the status of these people.
On Friday we went to Don Shula’s Golf Club and played the Senator’s Course, a modest club for Miami, but an amazing place to play nonetheless. We would also be going to dinner there that night at their recently renovated Shula’s Steakhouse. The wine was superb, the shrimp BBQ wrapped in bacon was a newer flavor but fantastic, and the steak and crab I ordered was close to the best I have ever eaten. We wrapped up the evening by going to a cigar bar where Keith keeps a locker and membership. The owner was Emanuel, a Cuban with quite a sense of humor and a nack for playing dominos. After a few cigars and great conversation we called it a night.
The next morning was going to be exciting because I was going to get to play a round of golf at one of the most exclusive golf courses in South Florida, La Gorce Country Club. This club was like stepping into a 1920s resort. It was draped in elegance, one must remove their hat before walking into the proshop, they still have caddies, something extremely rare in the United States, and almost everything is too expensive for me to buy.
After playing great and hitting some amazing shots, my cousin picked us up to go to the game. The Heat would be playing the Hawks so Keith had to leave early for work.
After trailing the whole game, in the last two minutes, the Heat turned out another victory, on the shoulders of Michael Beasley this time. After hanging out in the Flagship after the game, Keith came and got us and we left to another cigar bar with his friends who were to say the least, a show to watch.
The next morning we woke up early to go play our last round of golf once again at Don Shula’s club, but this time Keith had to work so he didn’t go. Plus, he had to go prepare for the charity event we would be attending at three that afternoon. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to change the polo that I was wearing.
I felt truly privileged to be among the stars, but was more inspired than anything to give back to the community. They were not being selfish either, spending what time they could with each person, never hesitating to take a picture with you.
As I perused through some of the items being auctioned, I could see that the bidding was going up steadily with prices I could only afford after three years of no spending whatsoever, or eating, and just saving all that money would buy me Dwayne Wade’s left shoe that he wore in Game 6 of the 2006 NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks.
Then, the announcement was made that the players and coaches would be going up on stage. The Miami Heat Dancers lined up making an isle so hot it was befitting for the Heat and in came the players, starters first, up on stage. The coaches followed and the flashes on all the cameras in the crowd started go off.
From then on, my brother and I enjoyed food from the best restaurants in Miami, massages, took pictures with some of the Heat players and dancers, and it was all free. A live country band, cowboys on horseback, little children in sombreros, pony rides, haystacks, a mechanical bull, and I was starting to feel like I was on a ranch. Apparently, Keith has some fans, a number of children coming and asking for pictures with him and calling him by name. Just when I thought it couldn’t get better, it did.
I showed up in my vintage UTEP polo that I usually wear when I play golf and had not planned on running into Pat Riley, the Kentucky Wildcat that is famous for attempting to block David Laden’s dunk in the 1966 NCAA Tournament Championship and the current President of the Miami Heat, but I did. Keith and Pat have become great friends since the days when Pat coached Keith in the 90s so I got introduced. It was a different kind of experience, not that he had any bad feelings after such a long time, plus one of his best players came from UTEP, Tim Hardaway. But I didn’t fail to ask if he had noticed my shirt, he replied, “Yeah, of course.” I said, “You should recruit from there in the next couple of years.” He just laughed.
On the next day, Monday, we rested. It felt as if I had drained every ounce of fun I had in my body over the weekend and I needed to charge up on funness. After meeting Pat Riley, everything was a blur, I know we drove home and watched the Oscar’s, but I was in a daze of exhaustion and satisfaction. The golf, the games, the cigar bars, and the charity event were a melting pot of memories.
Our flight was at noon and in a way, I was glad to leave, but sorry to part.