It was a hot day in the Long Beach Poly gym and the boys’ and girls’ freshman basketball teams were warming up and practicing free throws. Standing under one of the baskets in the Ron Palmer Pavilion was a familiar figure, one who was objectively overqualified to be serving as a rebounder for the soon-to-be-9th-grader practicing his free throw form.
It was Jordan Bell, Poly alum and newly-minted NBA champion with the Golden State Warriors. Rather than jetting off to a distant beach on vacation after reaching the sport’s pinnacle at just 23 years old, this is where Bell wanted to come as soon as the championship parade was over.
“Jordan has been talking about giving back to his community since before he had any reason to think he’d be in a position to do it,” said his high school coach Sharrief Metoyer, who has been a father figure to Bell and is serving as an advisor to him.
Even though Bell just finished his rookie season and is not on an eye-popping contract, he said he didn’t want to wait to start becoming a presence at his alma mater. Bell brought free t-shirts for all the freshman players and helped run drills with them for the duration of the practice, then spoke a little bit about his life story and the mistakes he’d made in high school, before answering questions and posing for pictures for the rest of the afternoon.
“Some people just say they’re from Long Beach but I really love the city, I really want to give back in every way I can,” said Bell. “Right now maybe it’s with my time and maybe in the future I’ll be able to do more.”
Bell said that he and his high school classmate and best friend Sheldon Brown would talk all the time in high school about the needs of the community around Poly.
“It was hard just to find a place to play, we need more gyms in the community, we couldn’t afford to join a 24 Hour Fitness type place and a lot of kids today can’t,” he said.
Aside from his own desire to give back to Long Beach and to Poly, Metoyer has been a guiding force for Bell. The former Poly coach organized the event, and not only introduced Bell to the Poly freshmen but also had Jackrabbit alums like Ryan Anderson, Roschon Prince, and Alex Carmon come speak as well.
“You’ve got two former State Players of the Year and an NBA champion here, and they were all where you’re sitting now, doing the same drills you did today,” said Metoyer. “If you listen to your coaches you can get to where they are.”
And, if they’re like Bell, when they get there they can turn around right away and offer a hand back to help as well.