A Plus charity benefits from some big-name boosters
Top names in business and sports work together for youth program
Seattle Times staff reporter
The morning started with basketball, but this was no ordinary game of hoops.
It was supposed to be a good-natured shooting contest between Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, Minnesota Timberwolves guard Martell Webster and a handful of kids at the Rainier Vista Boys & Girls Club.
The idea was to make a few shots and pose for pictures before moving on to a breakfast banquet and fundraising for the A Plus Youth Program.
But once the balls got in the air, the competitive juices got going and some good-natured trash talking ensued between the men.
Carroll, the keynote speaker at the breakfast, won the game and enjoyed ribbing the other two.
However, the big winner might have been Tavio Hobson, the A Plus founder responsible for organizing the breakfast and a program that benefits children on the court and in the classroom.
"To have so many people come out and not only share, but support your vision is fantastic and humbling," Hobson said. "I can't thank them enough. It takes a team to make a difference and we've put together a pretty good team."
Hobson assembled friends and benefactors, including longtime buddy Brandon Roy, who embodies the best A Plus vision.
"I was that kid," Roy said. "I had a 1.8 (grade-point average) and I improved that to a 3.2 and passed the SAT. I know kids who were 1.8 students and weren't able to progress. They didn't have anybody to say, 'Let's do this work.' "
Roy enlisted his friend, Webster, who is partnering with A Plus to establish a mentorship program.
Roy also brought Jamal Crawford into the mix.
This year, the charity basketball game will be named the Jamal Crawford A Plus Classic and will be played June 30 at Spokane Arena.
All proceeds benefit A Plus, and so far the players committed to be involved include Spencer Hawes, Nate Robinson, Terrence Williams, Jason Terry, Rudy Gay, John Wall and Brandon Jennings.
"Brandon won't ever say it, but he's the one behind the scene bringing us all together," Crawford said. "He's like that point guard in that sense. We all get to share in on it and carve out our little thing."
Carroll, an advocate of youth programs, is the latest to join the A Plus team.
"We learned a long time ago, whether I'm working with football players, coaches or kids in the streets of L.A. or Seattle, it is a one-on-one challenge," he said. "That's how it works and it's fitting that it goes with basketball. It's one-on-one. You have to look the kid in the eye. You got to learn who they are and watch them and get a feel for what they're all about so that you can help them create the vision that fits them."
Perhaps the most humorous exchange during the fundraiser was between the bombastic Ballmer and the low-key Chris Hansen, the San Francisco investor working to build an arena and bring the NBA back to Seattle.
Hansen was momentarily unsure how much he wanted to donate to A Plus before Ballmer, who agreed to match everyone's donation, playfully handed him three payment options totaling $50,000.
"If there had been a program like this in my neighborhood, it would have made a big difference," said Hansen, who spent a portion of his childhood in South Seattle.
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @percyallen.