What started as a simple tradition between he and his father, Paul Sr., Paul George has turned fishing into something he can share with his new Oklahoma City Thunder community.
He used to just go with his father as the two would find a lake and enjoy some father-son bonding time, but then some of the kids in his Southern California neighborhood joined in, and before he knew it they had a big group going every time.
“Every time I would mention that we’re going fishing, it started out with us two and it ended up being about seven or eight of us,” George said Monday. “So, they definitely enjoyed it as much as we did.” He posted a picture fishing with the kids on his instagram and wrote “Giving back what was given to me.”
From the News OK article:
George has been converting friends into fishing fans since youth. Now at age 27, the Thunder forward is casting a wider net.
On Monday he announced the launch of his foundation’s outdoor initiative in cooperation with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
The Paul George Foundation is sponsoring the OK Fishing In the Schools program for 13 Oklahoma City School District schools. It’ll provide a Paul George Foundation T-shirt to 1,300 fourth graders who are part of George’s “outdoor team.”
About 45 students from Stanley Hupfeld Academy at Western Village were in the Boathouse District for the launch. They learned to cast, took a pontoon boat ride with George and heard the four-time NBA All-Star detail a longtime love of fishing.
If you were angling Monday for hints about George’s future, there was some bait to take. In his speech announcing the initiative, he said “Oklahoma’s home for me, so it’s fun to start this journey.”
It’s refreshing to see NBA players use their influence on young kids for good. Some of these kids would have never had an opportunity to get out and have fun like this, but George is making that happen with his foundation.
“It’s really important because at this age you can really explore and really figure out what you want to do, what motivates you, what drives you and what you like to do,” George explained. “All it’s about is taking steps to achieve whatever you want to do. If fishing is what they want to do, this is the first step for them.”
“As we told the kids today, you have no further to look than Paul George to see how successful you can be in life and connecting to the outdoors is a big part of that,” said ODWC Director JD Strong.
After George made the announcement inside the boathouse that his Paul George Foundation is sponsoring the OKFITS program in 13 schools, he made his way outside where students were participating in a trio of “PG Casting Activity” stations, where they had a chance to cast reels into buckets on dry land, into the river while standing off the dock and finally, into the water while on a boat, with George as their guide.
“It’s amazing. He wasted no time coming to Oklahoma City and jumping right in and coming out and sharing his passion with us and engaging with youth and inspiring youth,” said Michael Knopp, Executive Director of the OKC Boathouse Foundation. “It spoke volumes to us. It’s special that he came right into Oklahoma City ready to serve and to give back and inspire kids.”
His quote about making OKC home is interesting, especially considering George can opt out of the final year of his contract and become a free agent. Most in NBA circles believe he wants to play for the Los Angeles Lakers, but he certainly seems to be opening the door for Oklahoma City to reel him in (pun absolutely intended).
It’s not a shock for him to say that, despite the slow start the Thunder have gotten to. They formed a super team when they traded for both George and fellow All-Star and Olympian Carmelo Anthony. The new Big 3 in Oklahoma City is expected to be a major contender come playoff time and that would certainly entice George into staying with the trio.
The Thunder have yet to find the chemistry necessary to win games, but that will come with time. Even the Miami Heat struggled out of the gates in their first season with LeBron James, Dywane Wade and Chris Bosh. They rebounded to win the East and make the NBA Finals and won two championships in the years that followed. Oklahoma City is 6-7 and ninth in the Western Conference, but they’re starting to show signs of life thanks to huge games from George. PG13 went off against the Los Angeles Clippers and Dallas Mavericks, guiding the Thunder to wins with 42 and 37 points, respectably.
George spent several years with the Indiana Pacers on the cusp of greatness, making the Eastern Conference finals against the Heat in 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons, losing both times. They had a fall from grace after George brutally injured his leg and went into rebuilding mode, forcing George to inform the Pacers he planned to opt out and become a free agent in the Summer of 2018. They moved swiftly to trade him to a contender.
Paul George to the Lakers seemed like a forgone conclusion before the trade, and some even still believed it to be after. The fact that George is immersing himself into community efforts is a great sign. Of course, it could just be that he’s a good person and would do that for any community. We’ll have to wait and see what he decides next summer. For the time being, it’s cool to see how much influence athletes can have over young kids. George hopes to send the message that kids need to play outside whenever possible.
More from the News OK article:
George stressed the importance of kids getting outside in an age when youth is dominated by “video games and technology.”
And he practices what he preaches, saying he and his father are teaching fishing to his 3-year-old daughter, Olivia, in what he called “a bonding moment.”
“Honestly, I didn’t think my daughter would be into fishing, but we took her out there, we threw her pole out there, and she absolutely loved it,” George said. “She didn’t catch nothing, but just keeping her busy reeling the line was fun to her. Her fishing pole lights up, so it was like a big ordeal.”
The topic of his next home will dominate the headlines, especially considering this same franchise has had to suffer rumors for both Durant and Russell Westbrook, but for now George is making the most of his situation and doing as much good as he can.