New York – Pistons forward Tobias Harris remembers the positive impact role models had on his life growing up.
It’s one reason why Harris has made it a priority to help fill that void for others who aren’t as fortunate by mentoring, educating and building bonds with at-risk youth in the community.
For his efforts, Harris was named the October NBA Cares Community Assist Award winner by the league on Wednesday.
Harris is the fifth Piston to win the honor, joining Andre Drummond (Feb. 2016), Rasheed Wallace (April 2006, Feb. 2005), Michael Curry (Dec. 2002) and Jerry Stackhouse (Oct. 2001).
“It means a lot, just being able to give back and do something to make an impact for the community and really just spreading the word and making an impact and going out your way to do something bigger than yourself,” Harris said prior to the team’s game against the Knicks. “It's a great award and I'm happy to be able to receive it."
Harris created the Tobias Harris School of Business Mentoring Program with the assistance from the National Basketball Players Association, participated in the Seeds of Peace basketball camp in the offseason that brought together hundreds of teenagers and educators from places of conflict, and partnered with Yes We Can Community Center and UAS Inc. to help guide athletes and their parents through the college scholarship process.
Most recently, Harris was part of a private town-hall meeting in Detroit with teammate Marcus Morris for a discussion about police interactions and social issues.
Harris will receive the award during an on-court ceremony at The Palace prior to Saturday’s game against the Celtics. Kaiser Permanente and the NBA will also make a $10,000 donation on Harris’ behalf to Feeding Children Everywhere, a social charity that empowers and mobilizes people to assemble healthy meals for hungry children.
“When I was growing up, any time I got a chance to meet an athlete or an NBA player or somebody that I've seen across the TV, that was like a day made for me,” Harris said. “I never forget that and I understand the impact that athletes and professional basketball players can make on kids and just not letting that ability go to waste.
“I think that's the biggest thing for me. Just like when I work out and I see results, it keeps me working out. When I go mentor kids and I see results and I see kids striving for their dreams and working harder that motivates me even more…It inspires me to go out on the basketball court and play better, but also to be a better person myself."