The Milwaukee Bucks are undefeated through seven games, making them the only remaining unbeaten team in the NBA. Malcolm Brogdon, a former rookie of the year and a key part of the team’s starting unit, is hitting his stride as one of the team’s many dynamic, play- and shot-making options.
Everything’s going well in Milwaukee for the hometown team, which will look to continue its winning ways against the Boston Celtics at 7 p.m. Thursday at TD Garden.
But Brogdon isn’t only thinking about Milwaukee right now. As much as basketball has always been a major part of his life, it’s never been the only thing. There’s always been a wider focus in his life, a higher calling.
“For me, personally, I feel like that’s my duty while I’m on this earth is to serve others and use my blessing to bless others,” Brogdon said. “If I’m not doing that I feel like I’m not serving my purpose. That’s my goal, that’s my passion and that’s what I intend to do for the rest of my life.”
In an effort to strike a harmonious, productive balance between basketball and service, Brogdon announced the creation of Hoops2o, a nonprofit aimed at addressing the clean-water crisis, particularly in Africa. He assembled four other NBA players — Justin Anderson and Joe Harris, two of his former teammates at Virginia, as well as Garrett Temple and Anthony Tolliver — to form “The Starting 5” of Hoops2o.
Together, those five players have a goal of raising $225,000 to fund five wells in East African communities. They’ll do that, at least in part, through their “Ballin’ for Buckets” campaign. During November, each player is asking fans to pledge a dollar amount of their choosing to correlate to a statistical category. For example, each time a person’s designated player scores or makes a three-pointer that will translate to more money raised for clean water in a community in dire need.
Or as Brogdon more snappily puts it, “Draining buckets on the court and filling them off it.”
Hoops2o is an offshoot of the Waterboys initiative started by Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Chris Long. Brogdon became the first NBA player to join that cause last season and has taken steps to make it grow in the NBA. While Brogdon’s involvement was aided by joining what Long was doing, he’s always known that improving the lives of those in poverty, particularly in Africa, was going to be part of his life’s story.
The seed was first planted when he took a trip to Ghana and Malawi when he was 10 or 11 and saw a level of poverty far beyond what he had been exposed to in the United States. Then, when he was 14, he went on a mission trip to Malawi and South Africa with his grandparents that furthered his urge to be an agent of change.
“That really sort of struck it home for me and made me extremely passionate,” said Brogdon, who went on to earn an undergraduate degree in history and master’s degree in public policy at Virginia. “At that point, I knew what I wanted my life’s work to be.”
This past summer, Brogdon spent much of his time traveling the world, visiting places such as Portugal, Colombia, Tanzania and Malaysia and doing charitable work at multiple stops. In Tanzania, he again saw the pressing need for clean water, walking along with women on their miles-long, daily hike to fill buckets with contaminated water.
While traveling, Brogdon also put out feelers around the NBA to form his five-man charitable crew. Anderson and Harris were logical partners as his former college teammates. In the search for other partners in the league, the names of Tolliver and Temple came up as players who have overwhelmingly positive reputations as well as an interest in the mission.
“This has always been the plan for me,” Brogdon said. “I wasn’t sure how it would unfold once I got to the NBA, but I knew if I got to the NBA I could then have the platform and have the resources and the connections and the people around me that had more connections and more resources to help me really impact a lot of people’s lives.”
As of Monday, Brogdon said, he had never discussed his outreach with his Bucks teammates. While many of them are friends and hang out off the court, he chose to keep his two passions separate, instead hoping his teammates would hear about Hoops2o organically from a source outside the locker room. Because of the rigors of the NBA schedule, Brogdon said he plans to talk with his teammates about his mission when things slow down.
For now, though, he’s just happy that both major elements of his life are going so well. Brogdon’s hope now is, beginning Thursday, the success of both will continue, with all of his actions on the court directly benefiting those off it.
For more information about Hoops2o, visit http://www.hoops2o.org/.