In sports, there’s many ways to measure success. Is the deciding factor championships won? Is it career longevity? Is it individual awards? For some athletes, all that matters is whether or not you’re a hero in your hometown, and such is the case for Cleveland Cavaliers Forward, Larry Nance Jr.
Nance is a native of Northeast Ohio, growing up there while his father (a three-time NBA All-Star and Dunk Contest Champion) played for the state’s only basketball team. In 2018, 24 years after Nance Sr. retired, his son was traded to the Cavaliers from the Los Angeles Lakers. Two years later, as the city’s small businesses cry out in pain due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Nance Jr. is prepared to use his status as a Cleveland native and NBA hooper to help them in a unique and effective way.
On December 16, 2020, a few days before the new season was set to start, Nance took to Twitter to describe his plan:
- Nance would wear a piece of apparel from a different Cleveland small business on his way into every game of the season.
- He would post the walk-in picture, tag and talk about each business in a post.
- After the apparel picture is posted, Nance will donate it to a homeless shelter.
- The jersey that he wears in each game will be auctioned off to benefit that night’s highlighted local business.
- Nance and the Cavs will both match the price of the jersey sale and donate it to the business as well.
The results have been incredible.
The first jersey sold for more than $2,600 dollars, and was price matched by both Nance and the Cavs, meaning $8,000 in total was donated to the Grog Shop, a local live music venue. We’ve seen a whole variety of businesses getting promoted since — a pastry shop, Cleveland’s oldest restaurant, a sports drink company founded by two Cleveland brothers, a yoga studio and many more.
The NBA player’s entrance to games has become a fashion runway of sorts in recent years, and Nance is capitalizing on this. National fashion brands are clamoring to be featured on NBA athlete’s bodies, but you’ll only see local ones on Nance this year.
There’s been a lot of discussion in sports about athletes as role models, as figures to look up to or aspire to be like. On this subject, NBA Hall-of-Famer Charles Barkley famously said in 1993, “I’m not paid to be a role model. Just because I can dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.” Barkley is right, in a sense, setting a good example and uplifting the community isn’t in a NBA player’s contract.
However, it just makes it that much more special when a player chooses to be a role model, and that’s what Nance has done in Cleveland.