Ex- Sonic Schrempf's charity has international flavor
The federal grant came up short on leg room. That's how Detlef Schrempf ended up with a coach ticket for a 20-hour flight overseas in 2005...
Seattle Times staff reporter
The federal grant came up short on leg room.
That's how Detlef Schrempf ended up with a coach ticket for a 20-hour flight overseas in 2005. His basketball prowess put him on that trip, but he needed his frequent-flyer miles to get him into first class.
Pennies get stretched, legs get scrunched. That's how the Detlef Schrempf Foundation lasted past the 16-year NBA career of its namesake and sent groups of basketball coaches to three different countries over the past five years to hold a week of camps for coaches as well as kids.
"We use Detlef as an example for every one of our players in what they should aspire to do in their charitable lives," says Brooks Meek, the NBA's director of international basketball.
That's why Schrempf sprung to mind when Meek learned of a U.S. Department of State program to increase and develop the image of America abroad. Meek filled out the paperwork, Schrempf provided the follow-through by enlisting his foundation that had 11 years and $7 million of fundraising to its credit.
Schrempf was a European basketball import before that was trendy. He came from Germany, played high-school and college basketball in Washington before beginning his long NBA career and starting a charity that didn't stop when he retired.
Most athlete charities follow the trajectory of their founders' career. Warren Moon's public charity hasn't given out a scholarship since his playing days.
Schrempf could be curt in interviews and a little bit ornery on the court. His foundation showed his softer side. He underwrote all the charity's operational costs during his NBA career. Now the charity covers its own expenses and is still growing. The charity spent $4 million from 1998-2005, according to the most recent tax records available. Of that, $2.7 million went to charity, which meets the industry standard.
"We have not gone downhill yet," Schrempf says. "Every year we raise the same amount of money or more."
The foundation hasn't come full circle, but it has taken him around the globe. Earlier this spring, Schrempf's foundation applied for a grant from the state department's Bureau of Cultural and Educational affairs to help fund a trip to Jordan next year, continuing the program that began in 2003.
"They just wanted to focus on sharing our cultural difference without the limitations of religion and politics," Schrempf says.
Basketball became a bridge between cultures. A chance to change perceptions of Americans while also altering a few jump shots. To practice diplomacy while improving dribbling.
The accommodations don't quite measure up to the NBA life. No private flights or chartered buses. Two vans that were supposed to meet the group in the Philippines never showed. An American living in the Philippines drove one car and the group rented another.
Needless to say, the beds he finds overseas don't fit a 6-foot-9 former NBA player.
"That's the experience," Schrempf says. "That's what I tell our coaches. You better be ready to rough it a little bit."
Saying Schrempf's impact has been felt globally is neither exaggeration nor metaphor. Just take a look at the Philippines. And Malaysia. And Morocco.
And next year, Jordan.
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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