From Hoop Dreams To Hopes For Cures

Kevin Durant

September 10, 2014
Displayed with permission from PR Newswire

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., Sept. 10, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — 11-year-old Kyle Markes passed away of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) on December 24, 2013, just days before he was set to be his idol Kevin Durant’s special guest at an Oklahoma Thunder game on Christmas Day.

Every three minutes, someone in the U.S. is diagnosed with a blood cancer. Almost 150,000 Americans will be diagnosed with these cancers this year. More than 1.1 million Americans are living with, or in remission from a blood cancer. Leukemia causes more deaths than any other cancer among children, adolescents and young adults younger than age 20.

Kyle was not one of the lucky ones.

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) and Behind the Bench, The National Basketball Wives Association (BTB) are determined to call a foul on cancers. They are forging a partnership to raise $1 million for blood cancer cures, with its annual NBA All-Star Weekend and “Touching A Life” Gala, February 13, 2015, in New York City. The prestigious All-Star Gala attracts popular NBA players for a star-studded evening of inspiration, philanthropy and entertainment. At the 2015 event, Kevin Durant, or one of his OKC Thunder teammates, will give the “Heart of Courage” award to Kyle’s mother, Jackque Markes.

“The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is honored to join forces with this committed, passionate group, whose efforts will shine a spotlight on the urgent need to raise funds to find cures for blood cancers and ensure patients have access to treatments,” states LLS President and CEO and Chief Mission Officer, Louis J. DeGennaro, Ph.D. “It’s especially fitting to launch our partnership during Blood Cancer Awareness Month, as we aim to create awareness for blood cancers, the third leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. We’re privileged to work with Behind the Bench to reach the influential and generous NBA community with our call to action. Together, we can make an impact on cancer treatments and cures, not someday, but today.”

As the first national player/wives organization, the non-profit Behind the Bench, The National Basketball Wives Association, formerly known as Women of the NBA, was established in 1993, by Deborah A. Williams, Ph.D., to address the challenges facing players’ families, especially the women and children.

To kick off the NBA wives’ activities for the 2015 Gala, Behind The Bench: The National Basketball Wives Association is set to donate laptop computers to children at Harlem Hospital in New York City, in a special community service event on September 11, 2014. This program was inspired by a child who wanted to communicate with her brother, her bone marrow match, while she was hospitalized.

“We are so pleased to announce our partnership with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in conjunction with this very special community service initiative at Harlem Hospital, which provides a lifeline to the outside world for these hospitalized children,” states, Kristina Ratliff, Behind the Bench president. “As the leading organization comprised of current and retired NBA players’ wives and life partners, we work every day to improve the lives of families, especially children like Kyle.”

“This community service event at Harlem Hospital demonstrates that Behind the Bench shares LLS’s commitment to providing comfort and support, along with medical treatment, to children with cancer and other illnesses,” states Michele Przypyszny, executive director of the New York City Chapter of LLS.

“In our 65 year history, LLS has invested more than $1 billion in research to advance cancer therapies and save lives. Survival rates since the early 1960s have doubled, tripled, and even quadrupled, thanks to research and access to better treatments. In that time, cures for many patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and Hodgkin lymphoma have been achieved and the five-year survival rate for children with ALL jumped from three percent in 1964 to approximately 90 percent in 2014. But there is more work to be done. Despite this progress, more than one third of blood cancer patients still do not survive five years after their diagnosis. With no means of screening or prevention for most blood cancers, we must focus on cures in order to achieve our goal of a world without blood cancers,” states DeGennaro.

“Harlem Hospital Center is honored to receive this generous gift from Behind The Bench: The National Basketball Wives Association. Their donation of laptops, assisted by the KINfolk organization, to the children of Harlem Hospital Center will go a long way towards improving our pediatric patients’ experience while they are in our care. We are proud of our strong performance across many areas of quality and patient safety, and we remain committed to providing high quality healthcare to the Harlem community and all the New Yorkers we serve,” says Denise C. Soares, RN, MA, Senior Vice President, Generations+/Northern Manhattan Health Network, Executive Director, Harlem Hospital Center & Renaissance Health Network, New York City Health & Hospitals Corporation.

Kyle Markes never met his hero Kevin Durant. But Durant has written Kyle’s name on his sneakers for every game as reminder that we must keep driving to the hoop for cancer cures in his honor.

About Blood Cancers
Leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma, myelodysplastic syndromes and myeloproliferative neoplasms are types of cancer that can affect the bone marrow, the blood cells, the lymph nodes and other parts of the lymphatic system. These diseases are related in the sense that they may all result from acquired mutations to the DNA of a single lymph- or blood-forming stem cell. With blood cancers, abnormal cells multiply and survive without the usual controls that are in place for healthy cells. The accumulation of these cells in the marrow, blood or lymphatic tissue interferes with production and functioning of red cells, white cells and platelets. The disease process can lead to severe anemia, bleeding, an impaired ability to fight infection, or death.

About The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society ® (LLS) is the world’s largest voluntary health agency dedicated to blood cancer. The LLS mission: Cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families. LLS funds lifesaving blood cancer research around the world, provides free information and support services, and is the voice for all blood cancer patients seeking access to quality, affordable, coordinated care.

Founded in 1949 and headquartered in White Plains, NY, LLS has chapters throughout the United States and Canada. To learn more, visit Patients should contact the Information Resource Center at (800) 955-4572, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. ET.

About Behind the Bench, The National Basketball Wives Association (BTB)
BTB is a global non-profit organization dedicated to empowering, inspiring and positively impacting the lives of children and families of global communities. To date, Behind the Bench has donated over $2 million to both national and local non-profit organizations. Each year BTB hosts its annual conference as well as host the “Touching A Life Luncheon” during NBA All-Star Weekend. This annual luncheon recognizes local individuals and organizations in support of their communities. Our past honorees have included notable dignitaries such as Muhammad Ali, Hank Aaron, Patti LaBelle, Janet Jackson, Shaquille O’Neal, Cookie Johnson, and Calvin Johnson, Jr., amongst many others. To learn more visit

International Basketball Not The Same As American Game


Displayed with permission from The Washington Times

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) – The ball was bouncing away, threatening New Zealand’s last-chance possession, though if a player could just dive on the floor and corral it, any NBA fan would know what to do.


Nope. Couldn’t.

That’s not allowed in the international game.

It is acceptable for trying to win to be secondary to losing close – but better not be too blatant if your priority isn’t winning at all.

Turkey trailed by six in the final minute of another contest, and when its opponent inbounded the ball, surely the Turkish bench would scream out the obvious instruction.


Nope. Wouldn’t.

Welcome to basketball, international style. Same name, not quite the same game as in America. Not in the way the sport is played, officiated, or strategized.

“It’s similar, but in anything, you take something from the East Coast to the West Coast in the United States, it’s a little bit different,” U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski said.

Being a successful coach in international tournaments requires more than just a good playbook. Sometimes it takes a good calculator.

Mike Fratello learned that the hard way.

In his first tournament coaching Ukraine in 2011, his team was eliminated by a point differential tiebreaker. So the longtime NBA coach wasn’t particularly surprised when Turkey opted not to foul in the last 30 seconds of its first-round matchup with the Ukrainians, settling for a six-point loss rather than try to prolong the game and risk losing by eight.

“We know from our first year that we did not advance to the next round because of point differential,” Fratello said. “We were tied with two other teams, Georgia, ourselves and Bulgaria, the three of us tied with 2-3 records. Georgia moved on because of point differential. So it’s huge here, it really is.”

Unfortunately for the TV analyst known as the “Czar of the Telestrator,” Fratello still isn’t a math major. His squad was again ousted on point differential even more painfully, falling short by one point.

Lose close, lose big, whatever. Sometimes, all that matters is losing.

Teams seem more than willing to tank games – to purposely lose – for what coaches feel would be a more favorable matchup.

Spain appeared to do it against Brazil in the 2012 Olympics, moving the Spanish to the other half of the bracket so they didn’t get the Americans until the gold-medal game.

And that seemed the mission for Australia in its final game of group play against Angola, when the Australians rested regulars, played defense with the intensity of a Spanish siesta, and blew a big lead in falling 91-83. That dropped them out of position to face the U.S. until the semifinals, with an intent that looked so obvious that FIBA has launched an investigation.

When it happened, Slovenia’s Goran Dragic of the Phoenix Suns blasted them on Twitter. But despite his anger, the Slovenians eventually blamed themselves for not double-checking their path and their math.

“Like I said, this is our fault. Other team, they calculate, we didn’t,” said Dragic’s brother, Zoran.

As for the game itself, there are other differences:

– The FIBA version is shorter than the NBA’s by eight minutes, with a closer 3-point line and a different ball.

– Only coaches can call timeouts – U.S. guard Kyrie Irving forgot that in an earlier game – and only when the ball isn’t live, negating the ability to regroup if a possession is going poorly.

– Traveling calls. Americans get whistled for the violation plenty in international competition, either because they’re too slow to adapt to the way referees see it, or too quick for the officials to think their moves are legal.

Some changes have been made to bring the games together – the FIBA key that was formerly a trapezoid is now also rectangular. NBA president Rod Thorn said there have been discussions for decades about how to adopt a universal set of rules, like soccer.

“What we found over the course of time, even though we’ve still gotten a lot closer, is that it was so hard for them to change certain things because of all the different federations … that they have,” Thorn said. “They’ve been doing things a certain way for so long they didn’t want to change, and it was just much more difficult – a lot of their federations had no money, couldn’t institute changes that cost anything.”

NBA owners have resisted some change, too.

One of the most notable rules they oppose is the international game allows defensive players to swipe the ball off the rim, which in America is basket interference. Thorn said the 3-point arc was moved in at one point, but league officials felt it was too close.

Still, the games are much more similar than when NBA teams competed in the former McDonald’s Open tournaments in the late 1980s. The games were so different that Thorn said they were officiated under a mixture of rules, rather than require the international clubs to learn the NBA’s illegal defense rules.

He represents the U.S. on a committee that meets annually with FIBA rules officials to discuss further changes to the game. But there may never be a uniform one.

“I don’t know if it’ll get to be the same,” Thorn said, “but I think it’ll continue to get closer.”

Favorites To Win The 2015 NBA Championship


This was the perfect summer for the Cleveland Cavaliers as they welcomed home prodigal son LeBron James while adding Kevin Love.

Still, I don’t think the Cavs deserves this distinction as the favorites to win the 2015 NBA Championship.

When James bolted to South Beach and took Chris Bosh along with him the team got thumped in the NBA Finals the first season Miami’s Big 3 played together. That team had more depth than Cleveland does and, most importantly, they also had rim protectors (Joel Anthony, Bosh and Udonis Haslem) and strong post defenders (Bosh, Haslem, Erik Dampier, Anthony and Jamaal Magloire).

Right now Cleveland’s rotation of bigs include Anderson Varejao, Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson and the corpse of Brendan Haywood. While they have three talented bigs in Varejao, Love and Thompson, none of those players are known for being post defenders.

Even worse, none of those three players will strike fear into opponents slashing to the rim.

Rookie big man Dwight Powell might turn out to be their best post defender this season.


So, who are the Favorites to win the 2015 NBA Championship? You can be rest assured the eventual champion will be a Western Conference team.

The San Antonio Spurs are the reigning champs and they look to be the early favorites. However, all bets are off if this is the season the Father Time finally catches up to Tim Duncan.

What the Spurs have in their favor is the fact Gregg Popovich is one of the all-time great coaches the NBA has seen while the team has Tony Parker in his prime and Duncan showing flashes of greatness.

Oklahoma City tried to make some waves this summer when they flirted with Pau Gasol signing as a free agent. While Gasol eventually landed in Chicago, having Steven Adams play more minutes this season – and cut into Kendrick Perkins’ – will help.

The Thunder have three stars in Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka. Durant is the current MVP of the NBA while Ibaka is one of the elite post defenders in the NBA.

Plus, Oklahoma City took San Antonio to six games in the Western Conference Finals last season.

While the Cavs are the flashy pick to win the title this year, the logical pick would be the Spurs or Thunder.