AL TAQADDUM, Iraq -- Thurl Bailey, Greg Minor and Shawn Bradley, retired National Basketball Association players, visited and played basketball with service members here as part of a program arranged by Morale, Welfare and Recreation and Pro Sports MVP.
The players first signed autographs and had face-to-face time with service members, many of whom talked about seeing them on television or at live games.
Bailey explained that coming out to meet service members gives him a look at something the average American does not get to see in person.
“It’s an honor and privilege to be here,” Bailey, a Salt Lake City native explained. “A lot of them talk about how they appreciate us coming, but this gives us a chance to show our appreciation and use our platform to thank these men and women.”
Bailey, whose NBA career spanned 16 years, played for the Utah Jazz and Minnesota Timberwolves.
Minor, a Boston Celtic from 1994 to 1999, also explained what this visit personally meant to him.
“I think it’s a dream come true being out here,” the Orlando, Fla., native explained. “For me, it’s a life-changing experience and it makes you look at life differently and not take things in the states for granted.”
At 7 feet 6 inches, former Dallas Maverick Shawn Bradley is hard to miss and so is his appreciation for the service members he met with.
Known for having his basketball skills stolen by aliens in the 1996 Warner Brothers movie “Space Jam,” Bradley and his fellow professional athletes had no problem sharing pointers with the Marines during an evening game.
One of the Marines who had the opportunity to get on the court with the players was Cpl. Todd Bruck, a maintenance management clerk with 2nd Maintenance Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward).
“It’s a great opportunity to come out here,” the Taylorsville, Ky., native, said. “A lot of us come out here and play ball every day and when they come out here with us it’s a good change and says a lot when they take time out to show their support for us.”