BOSTON -- The impact that Boston Celtics star guard Kyrie Irving has made on the game of basketball is undeniable.
The crossover dribble that has left many ankles in the NBA sore afterwards, the ability to finish at the rim or drain a clutch, late-game 3-pointer … we’ve seen him do it all time and time again.
And he’s managed to get his teammates involved as well in what has been a banner season for the six-time All-Star when it comes to passing the ball.
But the biggest assist Irving is making has nothing to do with what happens on that 94-by-50-foot basketball court.
It can be found thousands of miles away from Boston in Kenya, where Irving is lending a hand — his jersey actually — to help bring cleaner drinking water to the country.
According to water.org, there are 19 million people who lack access to clean water in Kenya.
Through Underdogs United, which helps professional athletes exchange their jerseys for sportswear with “clean water solutions stitched in,” Irving’s No. 11 Celtics Jersey is being auctioned off with the proceeds going towards clean water initiatives for schools in rural Kenya through a partnership with Impact Water.
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Irving isn’t the only NBA player involved with Underdogs United, but according to the Underdogs United founder it was Irving who got the ball rolling.
"Kyrie was the first high-profile athlete to commit to the Global Jersey Exchange, and his leadership really catalyzed the initiative,” said Stephen Gabauer, founder of Underdogs United. “Since Kyrie joined, we've partnered with over 100 professional athletes, including 10 other NBA stars (Golden State’s Stephen Curry being one of them). With their support, we've now reached over 10,000 children with safe drinking water. We're excited about Kyrie's auction and the lasting impact it will create in our partner communities for years to come."
In addition to providing cleaner water to rural Kenya, Underdogs United also employs Kenyan tailors and designers who collaborate to provide the athletes with Kenyan-inspired jerseys.
“Stitching Irving’s jersey has been a project of a lifetime for me,” said Vindah Kanana, the tailor for Irving’s jersey. “I’ve been a tailor for most of my life, and I have just shared my work with the local community. It‘s beautiful to make such a personal gift for someone overseas. On behalf of our community, I would like to say thank you to Irving for helping our schools with their water supply. God bless.”
Mariam Naipanoi, who designed Irving’s jersey, had similar sentiments.
"I was a center on my high school basketball team, so I keep up with the NBA,” Naipanoi said. “To create an original design for Kyrie, influenced by my Kenyan heritage, is an opportunity I could only dream of. It's been amazing to see how this initiative is positively impacting our community and the health of our children."
The auction for Irving’s jersey, which can be found on gounderdogs.org, is open until March 26 at 8 p.m. EST.
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