Ayton hands out meals during the pandemic

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the country’s sports superstars, and one of just two Bahamian high-profile basketball players in the National Basketball Association (NBA), is making his presence felt, giving back to the community in which he resides.

Phoenix Suns’ center DeAndre Ayton, who was having an eventful second season in the league up until the stoppage of play, has teamed up with Ocean 44, a local Phoenix restaurant, to donate dinner for the essential staff of the Phoenix Suns’ home arena, the Talking Stick Resort Arena located in downtown Phoenix, Arizona.

Essential staff workers at the arena have continued to work though the pandemic, and with NBA teams opening their practice facilities around the league, NBA life is gradually returning. In fact, the NBA is set to make a decision on the resumption of the season in the next two to four weeks, even if the games have to be played in empty arenas. A mini training period, followed by reduced regular season of up to 70 games, and the ensuing postseason, appears to be the best scenario.

As for the Bahamian big man, he said he was more than willing to support the workers who have continued to labor during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m happy to support Ocean 44, one of my favorite restaurants, while sending a small token of appreciation to all the staff who are taking care of the arena until we can get back on the court,” Ayton said in a press release.

This season, Ayton was averaging 19 points, 12 rebounds and 1.9 assists prior to the stoppage of play. He was shooting 54.8 percent from the floor. In his rookie season a year ago, Ayton dropped in 16.3 points and 10.3 rebounds to go along with 1.8 assists per game. He shot 58.5 percent from the floor, which was one of the highest field goal percentages for rookies in the history of the league. Ayton also set franchise rookie records for rebounds and double-doubles in a season.

The Phoenix Suns center is being pushed by teammate Frank Kaminsky even further, urging him to add the three-point shot to his offensive arsenal.

“Giving Tuesday” is a recent movement that was launched with the goal of creating a “global generosity movement” to support those in need during the ongoing pandemic, and now, the Bahamian big man is on board. Ayton becomes the latest high-profile athlete to contribute to the local community in Phoenix, helping to feed frontline workers and supporting a restaurant that is across the street from the Suns’ practice facility. He also partnered with local food truck Aioli Burgers to deliver hundreds of gourmet burgers to staff at the Banner Hospital branch in Glendale, Arizona.

Ayton has consistently answered the call to support local communities and give back to the sport of basketball whether it be here in The Bahamas or where he resides in Phoenix.

He continues to make an impact in and around the league. With the NBA hinting toward a reduced 70-game regular season, or possibly canceling the regular season altogether, Ayton’s second year in the league will likely come to an end. Under a 70-game format, they would be eliminated from playoff contention.

Be that as it may, the 21-year-old, 6’11” center had a progressive second season in the league despite only playing about half of the season. He sat out 25 games at the beginning of the season for violating the NBA anti-drug policy and also missed games in December, February and at the beginning of March with separate ankle injuries.

Now that he has had time to get healthy, Ayton is expected to be ready to play whenever his name is called.

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Sheldon Longley

Sheldon Longley joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2001 as a sports reporter. He was promoted to sports editor in 2008. Sheldon has an extensive background in sports reporting. He covered three Olympic Games and three world championships, along with multiple smaller regional and local games.

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