One of the best vocalist ever was Whitney Houston. Don’t debate me on that either. One of her greatest hits was “The Greatest Love of All”. By now, you are humming or singing those opening lyrics. She song, “I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way. Show them all the beauty they possess inside. Give them a sense of pride to make it easier.” That is exactly what Shareef Abdur-Rahim has done with his Future Foundation. He has given our youth a future. He has given them something to strive for. He has given them a foundation on which to build. Rahim went from playing basketball at Wheeler High School in Atlanta to playing at the University of California. He was the number three pick in the 1996 NBA draft to Vancouver, Canada. He came back home to Atlanta to play for the Hawks five years after that. It was then in 2001, that he started his foundation. It was at that, moment in time (saw what I did there) the words of Whitney’s song came to life. I sat down with him and asked him about his foundation and his basketball career.
Stenson: What made you start Future Foundation and why is it so important to you?
Rahim: It’s something that just made sense. I’m an Atlanta guy. I grew up in Southwest Atlanta. The idea was to create a resource for young people in the communities and neighborhoods I grew up in. Folks there invested in me, spent time with me. We started in 2001, so we are celebrating about 17 years of work and all the folks that have taken on the efforts with us. The cool part about it is we now have young folks that were a part of the first program, that have now come back to volunteer and work with us. That is really rewarding when you can tangibly see the efforts you put out. Our approach is to provide overall enrichment to our young people, to bridge the gap between the resources they have and what they need. So it is the academic support, it is the life skills; it is the overall enrichment and family support. To date we been a part of the lives of 15,000 families, and we have been fortunate to have impacted the lives of those young people and their families.
Stenson: You went from playing to coaching. What was the biggest transition?
Rahim: Not being completely a part of the action. As a player, you feel like you have a hand in what’s going on. As a coach, you are teaching and preparing and helping guys understand their opportunities. But it was another way to contribute. I enjoyed that, then took that experience, and moved into management. And now I’ve gone and progressed into working at the league office. Just great experiences. It has all been beneficial. We all have a road we want to go on. We all have a path but its guaranteed there are going to be bumps. Your ability to navigate those bumps and your abilities to adapt to those situations has a lot to do with the success you have.
Stenson: Looking at the NBA and how it is presently constructed, you played the forward/center position, how have you seen that position evolve?
Rahim: To your point, I started off as a small forward and by the end of my career I was a center. If I was young now being drafted I’d probably start off more as a power forward and play a lot more center. The game evolves just like everything else. Kids’ skills evolve, their access to coaching and playing has grown. With that, the game has grown and the game has transitioned. I think what wins out is hard work, competitiveness, and authenticity. The players that continue to be authentic, that continue to show their skills, and continue to compete will always win out. Like Harden, I don’t know if we ever seen a player like that. Durant is that way. Curry. LeBron. I don’t remember having guys like that, with the size and the skill and can shoot the ball like that. For the NBA that business continues to grow and that’s what you want.
What were his thoughts about being drafted to the NBA? How did he enjoy Vancouver? Did he do a NCAA bracket and whom did he pick? Should student athletes be paid? What was the experience like being in the Olympics? Go to DNASportsTalk.com under “Showtime” and click on March 19, 2018 to hear the entire interview. You can also view it on YouTube under the DNASportsTalk channel.
It was a privilege to sit down with Shareef Abdur-Rahim and talk about Future Foundation. Their tag is “Keep it 100”. It speaks to the 100% graduation rate with all the young people in the program. To get in touch with the foundation go to Future-Foundation.com.