Hundreds of kids saw the Larry O’Brien Trophy and got to experience a real NBA champion up close live on Saturday, and it’s awesome and will leave memories that will last a lifetime.
But what the few hundred local youngsters stand to gain from a weekend of interactions with Andrew Wiggins goes far beyond any basketball skills or tricks they may have picked up, and will last longer than brief reunion on a sweltering summer weekend.
What they should take away is that the Golden State Warriors star is the epitome of staying above the fray and true to yourself, relying on a small, inner circle of friends and to help block out noise and negativity.
“I feel great,” Wiggins said Saturday during a two-day break from youth camps in Vaughan and Mississauga. “There were a lot of ups and downs, a lot of people counted on me, but to be back and… win a championship? All the sacrifices, all the ups and downs, it was all worth it. It makes the story so much better.
The story was fantastic, even if at one point it seemed unlikely.
Wiggins, 27, had more than his share of scorn and ridicule in 5½ seasons with the ever-adrift Minnesota Timberwolves before a trade to the more stable and exponentially more successful Golden State franchise, where he was surrounded. by stars, champions and future Hall of Famers who got the most out of the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.
Wiggins – who was born in Toronto and raised in Vaughan – thrived in San Francisco as a player and a person. He was a vital cog in the Warriors’ six-game win over the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals in June, and a conquering hero among friends and family over the weekend.
“When I step onto the pitch, I always had confidence in what I could do,” he said. “When I was in Minnesota, I put in numbers. But people said, “He put numbers on a bad team.” So I go to Golden State and I don’t score as much, but I do a lot at a more efficient pace so the whole world can see.
The trip home was a celebration of an NBA title, of course. It was also a celebration of Wiggins believing in himself when so many others failed to do so.
“It’s a good moral,” he said. “Don’t let the little things bother me. I’ve always been one to not care too much about what people think…I listen to my family, I listen to my friends and God. The circle is tight; that’s how it’s always been.
“I can go home and talk to my mom (former Olympic track and field star Marita Payne). I can talk to my dad (ex-NBAer Mitchell Wiggins), my brothers, my sister. We’re family very close-knit and I have them to lean on if I need anything. That’s my support group right there.
The support group was supplanted by a stunning group of fans who got to see Wiggins and the trophy on Friday and Saturday.
He made a triumphant return to Vaughan for an outdoor event at his former stomping ground on Friday, then posed for photos and spent time with kids at a Life Time Fitness center in Mississauga on Saturday.
Sitting next to the trophy for a short chat – laughing and joking with everyone around – it was clear how satisfied, happy and proud he was.
In himself and for being able to share his success.
“The summer was different, but it’s been the best summer of my life,” he said. “It’s been amazing to come here and feel all of this love and positivity. It’s been great. Just being able to take the trophy home to where it all started for me… where all my friends are and my family who helped me get to where I am now.
Wiggins was one of the big hits during a happy post-championship period in San Francisco.
“It’s hard to win in the NBA. It’s hard to win in the regular season, even harder to win in the playoffs, even harder to win in the Finals. To accomplish this and come out on top? The celebration was much needed” , did he declare.
And he was like the Pied Piper in and around his hometown this weekend. Her smile made it clear what this meant to him.
“Man, back in Vaughan, back in the recreation center, it was amazing,” he said. “I saw people I hadn’t seen in years. I saw my seventh grade elementary school teacher. All those people you haven’t seen in a decade now have kids bigger than them. It’s amazing to see.
“I was happy that I was able to bring (the trophy) back and hopefully I can… do the same again next year.”
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