Standing 7-feet tall and weighing 280 pounds, Andre Drummond is one of the most physically imposing big men in the NBA.
Put him in a gym with 400 Special Olympics athletes, and the Detroit PistonsAll-Star center turns into a little kid again.
Drummond, 23, was named as the newest Special Olympics ambassador on Thursday, and he celebrated his new role by hosting a pep rally and basketball clinic in Detroit.
“It’s a feeling you don’t forget. It’s a genuine look and genuine excitement,” Drummond said with a chuckle in a telephone interview. “They don’t see me as just a basketball player, they see me for who I am and the amount of time and effort I put into being a supporter of the movement.”
Drummond was first introduced to Special Olympics as a rookie when he attended an NBA Cares event. From that moment on, he was determined to be as involved as he could in promoting the cause and working with the athletes all over the world.
“Just seeing how much they love the game and the excitement they had just drew me to them,” Drummond said. “Year after year I continued to do it, and I tried to be more involved, and now it’s kind of like that next level being an international ambassador.”
“Andre has experienced firsthand how sports can build fitness, confidence and skills among Special Olympics athletes and how playing unified and being unified can break down barriers and help build respect and inclusion in every neighboring school and community across the nation,” Special Olympics CEO Mary Davis said.
Unified programs work to pair students with and without intellectual disabilities for education and sports.
As much as Drummond enjoys playing basketball with those he met on Thursday, he said the real experience comes in the conversations and interactions away from the court.
“Anybody can shoot and throw the ball around,” he said. “But when you get the time to really speak to them and hear their stories and see the kinds of personalities they have, it’s something you can’t really describe. You have to be there for the moment.”