First things first, Mike Conley: congratulations.
Not for the fat, massive, impressive show of faith that the Memphis Grizzlies offered in their five-year max contract to you. You earned that through your play and your leadership, and other teams would have offered you a four-year version of the deal you just signed. Your skill and the market both say you're a max player, so here we are.
I am congratulating you on the impending birth of your child. It'll be a game changer, let me assure you. Two weeks and counting...I remember those days before my daughter was born. It's like Christmas Eve had a baby with going up the hill of the world's tallest roller coaster. You can't wait for this gift that is about to become your life, but you're simultaneously terrified of what is just beyond that peak.
It all works out, that drop. There will be sleepless nights and a ton of diapers. You will smell smells and see things you never knew existed. But holding that little life in your arms will change you. It will give your life a whole new, amazing meaning to your place on this planet: love for your wife, and love for your child, that is unlike anything you've ever known.
Being a Dad rocks. I'm a big fan, if you couldn't tell.
But the world our kids are coming into is kind of a mess right now. Sure, there are huge issues worldwide, but in the United States in particular there is civil unrest. Violence. A divide that over the past several years seemed to be driven by politics is now reinforced, solidified in racial tensions that feel as strong as they've been in decades. As President Obama recently said, it's better than it used to be. That doesn't change the fact that things are still pretty bad right now, though.
As the athletes who opened the recent ESPY awards stated, we all must be better. For our children's sake, more than anything. You are living up to your end of the bargain, donating $1 million to the Grizzlies Foundation, a donation that Grizzlies Owner Robert Pera has matched. This is an organization that does terrific work with young people in the Memphis community, as you know, and they are more than worthy of the donation.
I have a good friend in Memphis, a father like you and I, who runs a school that stands to benefit from your donation. Sometimes it's good to put a name and organization that stands to benefit directly from the broader donation-
Nick is a tremendous educator who does fantastic work with the kids at Veritas Prep. As a teacher myself, I have always admired what Nick is as an administrator in that community, helping make Memphis a better place in his way. Your donation helps make that happen for Nick, and many others like him, whose goal is to help out the sons and daughters of the city of Memphis.
All we can do in our lives is try to be the best versions of ourselves we can be, and try to make our communities better in our own ways. That is all we have control over, when all is said and done - our words, and our actions, in our situations. I cannot create legislation in a classroom or on a blog, and my friend Nick cannot solve world hunger through his lunch program, and you cannot end violence and racism with one fell swoop of your pen into your checkbook. But what we can do is use the tools at our disposal as community members, and the day we have been given, to try to make the world better for those we care about and those around us. And if enough of us do that? We can start to be that "better" that we are all hoping to see. You are allowing for hardworking people like Nick to do that and then some.
When your child is born, it will strengthen that desire to help all the more, I am sure. Fatherhood brings about an overwhelming sense of responsibility - to protect this child who is now in you and your wife's care, to be a better man for them, and to try to make a better world for them. They deserve nothing less, and while we are not perfect we must give our best to them. The same can be said for those who we work with in our day to day lives. After all, we are all someone's baby.
So, in addition to a hearty congrats on becoming a Dad, congrats for choosing to use your platform and opportunity to be a role model and trying to make your community better. The city of Memphis is lucky to have you, and Nick, and folks just like the two of you.
Oh, and the basketball...I'm looking forward to more of that too, Captain.