One thing is for certain. The Memphis Grizzlies have formed great partnerships in the Memphis community. And with one particular affiliation, a special bond has been established.
The Stax Music Academy has not been the same since the Memphis Grizzlies teamed up with the Soulsville Foundation to host one of the largest fundraising events of the year. Just one week after the Grizz Gala, local movers and shakers gathered on Saturday at the Stax Museum for the 10th Annual Staxtacular event. The evening's theme was "Suit Up and Play."
The hosts of the night were Grizz Players Mike Conley, Tony Allen and Quincy Pondexter. Joining them were newcomers Tayshaun Prince, Courtney Lee, James Johnson and Jamaal Franklin, who experienced their first Staxtacular and were more than proud to take part in the festivities.
"Obviously this is my first time so I wasn't aware of how it was going to be run," Prince said. "But the one thing I do know is whenever we do something with the Memphis Grizzlies as far as out in the community it's always to raise money for a good cause."
Suited for the night, the players came ready to do their part. Fans snapped photos with the players and talked about their favorite plays during games.
Staxtacular 2014, presented by SunTrust, is the largest fund-raiser of the year for Stax Music Academy. Since its inception in 2004, Staxtacular has continued to grow and has raised close to $1,000,000. Last year's Staxtacular saw record-breaking attendance, with almost 550 guests, and surpassed all previous records in money raised. The event raised approximately $135,000 from sponsorships, ticket sales, and online, silent and live auctions.
"Tonight's event is great," Pondexter said. "It's great to see how much it grows every year. It's great to be a part of it. I'm really fortunate. I think we're making great progress and Stax Academy is growing."
A sell-out a week in advance, some were turned away at the door. However. those in attendance enjoyed a night of blues and basketball as they mingled, danced and chatted with their favorite players.
Head coach Dave Joerger recalled a time seven years ago when the Grizzlies were 22-game winners. He emphasized the need at the time to get players into the community to show their loyalty to the city and to the fans.
"We drafted very well as far as character people," Joerger said. "And now the winning has gotten better every single year and we've maintained that in the community. It's really important that we keep doing that. It's not a presence, it's a relationship within the community.
"There are a lot of things the guys do that nobody knows about. Of course this is more public. I think as a community we're very giving. I'm really proud to be a part of this community and I'm proud of our guys."
Throughout the rich history of the museum was a "World Tour" buffet ranging from sushi to dessert. Fans and players swooned to the sounds of the Bo-Keys with Percy Wiggins. Grizzlies announcer Pete Pranica led a live auction, where one guest won a golf package with Tony Allen as the caddy.
"It's a great cause and I'm happy to be a part of it," Allen said. "We've got a lot of good faces from the city in town to support it. What better place to do this than here."
In addition to the live auction, there was a silent auction that began online on Jan. 2. Bidders were also able to access the new mobile bidding feature, which allowed the bidding process to be conducted on personal mobile devices.
The Stax Music Academy is a unique learning center that inspires young people and enhances their academic, cognitive, performance, and leadership skills by utilizing music with a strong focus on the rich legacy and tradition of Stax Records. Since its founding in 2000, it has served more than 3,000 young people, many of them at risk. Students have performed at Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center, Smithsonian Folklife Festival and many other venues, including performances in Italy, Australia, and Germany. Since 2008, every high school student enrolled in the Stax Music Academy has gone to college.
IN THEIR OWN WORDS
"It's a huge honor to be a part of Staxtacular again and being able to do something for such a good cause. The academy is doing quite well and it represents Memphis well."
– Mike Conley
"It's been good being here and being a Memphis Grizzly. This community is known as a little community but for Grizzlies it's real big to try to bring it up and lift its spirits. I feel like we all grit and grind together and not just us on the court but as a city together."
– Jamaal Franklin
"Mike (Conley) told me he hosted it a couple of times and it's a big event. I'm happy I'm here for the first time to get to witness it myself and hopefully I stay with the Grizzlies and come enjoy it a lot more years."
– James Johnson
"I'm enjoying the fans. I got a chance to mingle with a lot of great fans and people that support us. I think fundraising is always a good thing especially if it's for a good cause." – Courtney Lee