More than three decades ago, basketball was introduced to my high school in Nigeria. The game piqued my interest, but my real goal in joining the basketball team was to earn a scholarship to attend college in America. I was blessed. Because of learning the game, my life on and off the court blossomed. I learned the values necessary to be successful from the blacktop to the boardroom.

Reflecting on my past, I realized that simply expressing appreciation with a "thank you" to my family, friends and coaches was not enough. I decided to demonstrate my gratitude through action.

I enjoy giving back, not just to NBA stars but to the community as well.

One service program that I am especially passionate about is Power Forward -- a youth program designed to foster life skills and build health knowledge through basketball. We recently launched the initiative at 10 schools in Abuja, Nigeria, for more than 300 young boys and girls. The program is a partnership through the NBA, WNBA, Africare and ExxonMobil. Our goal is to empower the next generation through sports, and to encourage youth to follow their dreams through basketball.

We hope that by teaching the sport, young people will learn leadership skills to build connections with those around them – from their classrooms to their communities. And to me, that is what is so special about sports. It unites people from all different parts of life through a common bond.

In addition to building a sense of togetherness, Power Forward emphasizes the value of hard work. Success is not easy - one must work for it. And success is not a road traveled alone: parents, teachers and pillars in the community must encourage the next generation to reach its potential.

By uniting politicians, corporations and educators through basketball academies, we hope to enable the next generation to achieve its fullest potential.

Power Forward is a natural fit for me. At the grassroots level, the organization is providing children the opportunity to be in the sport that I love. My role as a professional athlete is to bring people together and serve as a role model.

As you begin to celebrate the holidays and say thanks to those closest to you, I ask you: What can you give back to the next generation? How can you express gratitude, not through words, but through action?

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