There were about 80 Special Olympics Southern California athletes in attendance at Saturday morning’s NBA Cares Special Olympics Unified Clinic, but for one moment all eyes were on 9-year-old Bobby Grunsted.
A murmur grew louder, thanks in part to former player and NBA Cares ambassador Felipe Lopez. “Bob-by! Bob-by! Bob-by!” his fellow athletes and NBA and WNBA guest participants chanted as they rallied around.
The scene, capped by a bounce pass to Felipe, nearly brought tears to his mother’s eyes.
“To have a moment like that, and turn around after Felipe called him out and congratulated him, I could just see the pride on his face,” Anne Grunsted said.
Bobby, a San Diego region athlete from San Marcos, had a new friend for the rest of the clinic. Not long after the drill, Felipe took off his event credential and put it around the young man’s neck before standing behind him for a group photo.
For Bobby, basketball is a release from his shy personality. The smile on his face throughout the morning said as much.
“Basketball is the thing that has sort of brought him out of his shell,” Anne said. “At school and a lot of other things he does, he stands back and he’s a little bit afraid to try. But he loves basketball.
“He was put out in front of everybody, and he came through and did what he was asked to do. That’s huge. He doesn’t get a lot of moments like that.
“To have the NBA and WNBA out here, and to see [Bobby] can do it and play like them – he just needs to try. I think that’s the biggest thing.”
Frank Lopez, who helps lead clinics and camps for the NBA and WNBA, said he enjoys the events “because the participants are always so eager.”
“They want to show you they can participate and do things,” he added. “All they want is for somebody to care about them and that’s what it’s for.”
Hey Now, You’re an All-Star!
Robert Hall and Kaprisha Trotter took the court with former NBA and active WNBA All-Stars in the seventh annual NBA Cares Special Olympics Unified basketball game at the Los Angeles Convention Center.
The two SOSC athletes earned the coveted selection through nominations from their local regional SOSC offices. Kaprisha and Robert were joined by 10 other Special Olympics athletes from all over – including four overseas athletes from Germany, Kenya, Serbia and the United Arab Emirates.
They had some pretty good Unified teammates, too.
Among the pros who joined in the fun were two-time NBA All-Star Rashard Lewis, NBA champions Horace Grant and Ron Harper, 2015 WNBA most valuable player Elena Delle Donne and three-time WNBA All-Star guard Skylar Diggins-Smith. The teams, divided into Gladiators and Stars, were coached by active NBA players Kyle Kuzma, Jayson Tatum, Buddy Hield and Larry Nance Jr.
The Gladiators won, 33-25, but there plenty of reasons Robert and Kaprisha’s Stars team had to enjoy.
NBA Hall of Famer Dikembe Mutombo, a four-time defensive player of the year, delivered one of the game’s several lighthearted moments when he blocked a shot and gave his signature finger wag.
Robert, a Huntington Beach resident, has competed in the Orange County region for two years. But his love of basketball goes back 14 years, as a fan of two-time NBA most valuable player Steve Nash.
Robert describes himself as a hard worker who loves to compete. Four times a week, he’s in a gym getting shots up.
When he’s not on the basketball court, Robert enjoys volleyball and on the weekends beach volleyball.
Robert has worked through his epilepsy with bravery and courage.
“Special Olympics makes me feel great,” Robert said.
— Special Olympics CA (@SOSoCal) February 17, 2018
Kaprisha, an SOSC athlete from Carson for the past six years, sees Special Olympics as an opportunity “that I may not have otherwise had.” That opportunity includes both competition and off-the-court friendships.
“Special Olympics keeps me active and busy when I would probably just be sitting at home,” she said. “I have made a lot of great friends through Special Olympics.”
Kaprisha has since taken what she’s learned and teaches children the fundamentals of basketball in her spare time.
Inside the SOSC is a blog written by staff member Tracy McDannald. It is a more feature-style approach to looking inside what makes Special Olympics Southern California so unique, so special. It is meant to explore the people and their stories. One word at a time.