Kevin Martin didn't check himself into rehab, nab a DUI charge, or post controversial messages on his Twitter page during the offseason. Perhaps that's why his summer of positivity and goodwill, perfectly suited for a melodramatic Chris Connelly SportsCenter human interest story, has largely flown under the radar of the national spotlight.
During a time when NBA players tend to make headlines for all of the wrong reasons, Martin visited Indonesia to head a development camp for the top 48 players in the DetEksi Basketball League.
Despite a nearby suicide bombing and concerns over international travel, Martin flew thousands of miles with a posse of one — his 75-year-old grandmother. And if bringing smiles to thousands of faces in the impoverished but hoops-crazy third world country wasn't enough, he decided to donate his entire paycheck from the NBA Cares program — $15,000 — back to the DBL. Let's just hope he didn't teach the future Indonesian All-Stars how to awkwardly shoot the ball from their hips.
It's not uncommon to find NBA players supporting charities or helping to raise money for worthy causes. Unfortunately, despite the admirable intentions, their appearances oftentimes feel forced or designed to only generate good publicity. It's why Martin's refreshingly genuine and heartfelt behind-the-scenes efforts shine a positive light on not only himself and his team, but athletes worldwide.
Of course, Martin isn't the first King to lead by example and provide for those less fortunate than himself in other countries. Former Sacramento center Vlade Divac, whose retired jersey was lifted into the Arco Arena rafters in April, has continued to host fundraisers to benefit displaced refugees in Serbia and Africa as part of the recently established Humanitarian Organization Divac (HOD). I'll never forget the way Divac guided the Kings to 10 wins in their final 11 regular season games during the 1998-99 season and a near upset over the heavily-favored Utah Jazz in the playoffs, all while a devastating war threatened his family's safety in his native land. Already contributing millions of dollars in assistance for underpriviledged children of the former Yugoslavia through the Divac's Children Foundation (DCF), he adopted a seven-month old girl after her parents were killed by army snipers. Camera crews recording "Vlade Doin' Work" were nowhere to be found.
Francisco Garcia, who poured in a career-high 12.7 points per page in 2008-09 and will battle for the starting small forward position in next month's training camp, has been widely recognized throughout the NBA for his commendable charity work. Last May, he traveled to visit victims of the Sichuan earthquake, where he conducted a basketball clinic and made sizable donations to the affected families. Currently playing for the Dominican Repuplic national basketball team in the FIBA Americas tournament, Garcia put up a team-best 17 points in an opening day victory over Brazil. His dancing moves however, were no match for Charlie Villanueva's shuffle.
"If you work hard, you get rewarded," Martin told the newest Kings fans during his farewell speech in Surabaya. He should know. While critics have been calling him soft and fragile since his days as a rail-thin 21-year-old rookie, he's done nothing but prove them wrong, raising his scoring average for the fifth consecutive season to the tune of 24.6 points per game.
But after missing 31 games with injuries and shooting an uncharacteristic 42% from the field last season, he adopted a rigorous offseason workout program, showing up early at the gym and lifting weights at all hours of the night. Dedicated to rebounding from a disappointing season while serving as the team's newest international ambassador, Martin, much like Divac and Garcia before him, has proven that the only soft thing about these Kings are their hearts.