Raymond Felton tries to avoid taking his work home with him, but it's been a challenge this year.
With the (5-14) Knicks performing well below expectations, Felton, at times, has found himself thinking about basketball at all hours of the day.
Last week, though, Felton took a break from the trials and tribulations of the season to spend time tending to a cause that's just as important to him as any assist or 3-pointer.
Wednesday, Felton visited with six members of the New York City chapter of the Big Brothers/Big Sisters club. Felton met three kids and their "big brothers" at the NBA offices and treated them to a pizza party and a shopping spree at the nearby NBA Store. The event was in partnership with the NBA's Give BIG program, designed to highlight the charitable efforts by NBA players and fans during the holiday season.
Felton, the ambassador for Big Brother/Big Sister's New York City chapter, also treated the kids to Sunday's game against the Celtics (though that probably wasn't as fun as the trip to the NBA Store).
So, what did Felton get out of the deal?
"Just to see them smile, that's my prize," he said. "That's all I really care about."
Some athletes treat their interactions with charities as one of the necessary evils that come with being a well-known public face.
Show up, take a few pictures, shake a few hands and call it a day. But that doesn't appear to be the case with Felton.
In addition to his work in New York, Felton served as an ambassador with the Big Brothers/Big Sisters during his five-year stay with the Charlotte Bobcats.
Working with children is something that he hopes to do for the rest of his life.
"When you finish playing you have to think about what you want to do afterwards," Felton said. "It's not necessarily about money but it's about staying interactive with the world around you. ... This something I love to do. I have a passion for it."
He probably didn't know it at the time, but that passion was engrained in Felton as a young kid growing up in Latta, S.C.
Felton says he took a "different path" than most of his grade school classmates. He avoided trouble and those who found themselves in it.
Instead, thanks to guidance from his parents -- Raymond Felton Sr. and Barbara Felton -- and support from his best friend Jermichael Wright, Felton remained focused on basketball.
Those three -- and other members of the community -- served as early mentors to Felton on his path to winning Gatorade National High School Player of the Year award, a national championship at North Carolina and, eventually, a job with the New York Knicks.
Felton keeps his mom, dad, Wright and others in mind when he interacts with kids from the Big Brother/Big Sister program.
"I didn't have any NBA players around me growing up, but I had local heroes. That was everything (to me)," he said. "So I'm just trying to give what I feel like I received as a kid." And a lucky segment of New York City's youth are benefiting.
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