Inspiring Athletes

Inspiring Athletes

Kevin Durant dunks his own alley-oop

posted by Chad Bonham

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SPECIAL REPORT: Kevin Durant dunks his own alley-oop

Oklahoma City Thunder All-Star Kevin Durant isn’t stressing out about a potential NBA lockout. He’s having too much fun participating in multiple camps this summer in Chicago, Oklahoma City and Austin. Durant just finished up at a three-day NIKE Skills Academy and now moves on to OKC and his old college town where he played one season for the Texas Longhorns.

A week earlier, Durant made news during a vacation trip to Los Angeles where he played in the legendary Drew League Pro-Am. If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the “Durant to Durant” alley-oop play that everyone has been talking about:

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And if you missed it, Inspiring Athletes posted an interview a few weeks back with Durant that you can check out by clicking here.

Dwight Howard bowls for charity

posted by Chad Bonham

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GOOD WORKS WEDNESDAY: Dwight Howard bowls for charity

Last weekend, Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard hosted a bowling event to raise funds for his new charitable group, the D12 Foundation. When asked about a potential NBA lockout (something PR reps had requested reporters not ask), Howard did what Howard does best. He turned the awkward moment into a joke.

Dwight Howard (Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images; Courtesy Orlando Magic)

“I’m not worried about the lockout,” Howard said. “I have two jobs in place. One, I’ve been training a couple of chickens in my backyard. I have a miniature treadmill. I have some steroids for the chickens, and we’re going to do cockfights. So I might do that. The other one is I’ve been also training for curling. So I’ll be in Canada and Montreal with the curling team up there. So, yeah, I can’t wait.”

But Howard is dead serious about the D12 Foundation, which hopes to raise money for a children’s hospital and the non-profit BETA Center for teen mothers, both based on Orlando.

About five years ago, Howard (kicking off his third year in the NBA at the time), told me in an interview that his parents were instrumental in shaping his desire to impact the lives of others. His mother miscarried seven times before he was born. That fact has also played a role in Howard’s outlook.

“I’m really thankful to be alive,” he said. “If you get to know me, I’m a person that’s always smiling and always joyful and I’ve been that way since I was born because of the struggles I went through. I was supposed to be number eight that died so I’m always thankful. My mom and dad have always been there. We prayed almost every morning. We had a great foundation at home and it carried on over to school and it carried on over to basketball and it will help me for the rest of my life.”

To watch a video about Howard’s event, click here.

NHRA Pro Stock champion Mike Edwards on winning, close calls and Young Life

posted by Chad Bonham

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TUESDAY CONVERSATION: NHRA Pro Stock Driver Mike Edwards on winning, close calls and Young Life.

NHRA Pro Stock driver Mike Edwards started chasing a dream back over 30 years ago, but somewhere along the way, his desire to win races and championships took a back seat to sharing God’s love with others in the sport and more recently with teenagers through a special Young Life drag racing program.

In this interview, the 2009 champion and 30-time race winner talks about that magical season, why associations matter and how youth ministry has reinvigorated his career:

Bonham: What was so special about the 2009 season that allowed the team to basically run away with the championship?

Mike Edwards poses with a "Wally" trophy.

Edwards: 2009 was just our year. We hit the ground running. We came out and we were extremely fast and really consistent. We won five races and we won the ultimate goal for me and for anybody in this class—that’s to win the championship. It’s just an unbelievable feat and it takes so many people to do it. It’s 24-7. You have to live it. It’s just what you do every day. It takes so much of your time. It was a rewarding year and something I’ve tried to do for 30-some years. I won a championship in modified several years ago but to win one in this class is quite a feat. I never thought I could accomplish that. It was the grace of God and everybody just helping me.

Bonham: Of course it looked like the same thing was going to happen again last year, but things didn’t quite work out the same.

Edwards: Last year, we won more races than anybody. We won eight last year and then got down to the countdown and just had some really difficult times and had some electrical issues in the car. One thing led to another and it just wasn’t meant to be. We ended up third.

Bonham: How has that first title impacted the team?

Edwards: When you win a championship like we did in ’09, that brings more TV attention and more public awareness. That just opened up the door for our other program, which is far more important than anything we do and that’s the Young Life program. We got lots of recognition for that and lots of response. When you win the championship, you’re getting interviewed all the time. Every time I get interviewed, I’m always plugging the Young Life program and all of my sponsors. It all goes hand in hand. When you have success on the track, it gives you more opportunities to do interviews and to talk about the things that matter to you. Of course, that’s the first thing on our list. The first priority for us is a program we do every Thursday night with the Young Life kids. It was just meant to be. It was just our time. We’ve been waiting a long time but it was finally (God’s) time.

Bonham: Can you tell me a little more about the Young Life program?

Mike Edwards with a Young Life program participant.

Edwards: We have a program every Thursday night at every event we go to. We have 22 races a year. It’s local groups and their leaders bring them out. When Young Life gets together, it’s called a club so we just call it our club on Thursday nights. It’s just another place to come and fellowship and let the kids get to know us. We have treats and refreshments and hot dogs for them. It’s just a place for us to have relationship and get to know them. It’s something most kids don’t get a chance to do by spending time at the track and being around the racecars.

Bonham: How important has your recent sponsorship from Interstate Batteries been to the team’s progression?

Edwards: (Interstate Batteries owner) Norm Miller came on board last year and this year he stepped up and did even more for us. He’s very aware of our program. He knows what’s going on and he’s a first class individual. The website is awesome. It’s a really neat deal. When you can associate yourself with people like that and surround yourself with people like that, it’s a great feeling to know that they’re behind you 100 percent no matter what happens. They know what the real goal is and you really want to be around people like that.

Bonham: Do you get the feeling that other teams respect you for your beliefs and your public displays of faith?

Edwards: I believe so. For the most part, everybody for sure that runs our class knows. In ’09 when we did the banquet at the end of the season, I had to get up and speak and most of my whole talk that night was about what I stand for and the things that mean the most to me. Of course, that’s the Lord Jesus. Whether they believe it or not, they respect us a lot and they respect what we stand for.

Bonham: Did you come into the 2011 season with a renewed sense of purpose?

Mike Edwards' Pro Stock car in action.

Edwards: We’re definitely optimistic. I really feel like we didn’t finish last year. We had an awesome season. Don’t get me wrong. But the ultimate goal every year is to win the championship and we didn’t do that. So I feel like in a way that we failed a little bit. Unfortunately there’s two seasons in one. You’ve got the first season where you’ve got to have enough points to get into the top 10 and the countdown and then once you get there, they strip you of all your points and everybody’s neck and neck again. It left a really bad taste in my mouth because I had a 400-point lead before the countdown and then ended up losing it. It was really tough and disappointing for the team. We’re working hard and we’re optimistic.

To keep up with Mike Edwards Motorsports, visit the team’s official website here. You can also follow NHRA at its official site here.

Join Inspiring Athletes tomorrow for Good Works Wednesday featuring Dwight Howard’s latest charitable venture.

The Inspirational Sports Report: Allyson Felix and Jesse Williams among USTAF winners

posted by Chad Bonham

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Felix and Williams win at U.S. Track & Field Championships; Simpson also qualifies for World team

At the U.S. Track & Field Championships in Eugene, Ore., this weekend, Allyson Felix won the women’s 400-meter race and Jesse Williams won the men’s high jump. Also qualifying for the World Championships team was Jenny Simpson who placed second in the 1500-meter run.

Beijing Summer Olympics decathlon gold medalist Brian Clay had to pull out of the event after spraining his calf during the 110-meter hurdles but will likely petition for a spot on the World Championships team.

To hear more from these exceptional athletes and the faith that drives them to excellence, click on their names above. The World Track & Field Championships take place in Daegu, South Korea from August 27th through September 4th.

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