Peaks & Valleys of Emotions at 2023 Bigger Than Basketball Game
As the lights illuminated the LEC Gym a buzz of excitement filled the air, crowds of people flocked to spend the day watching basketball, but this wasn't just any game. An important message resonated with every flashy dribble and dunk: mental health matters.
The Bigger Than Basketball Game aimed to inspire players and fans alike to understand that it's okay to reach out for help and that support is always within reach.
The event kicked off with NFL rising star Chase Claypool headlining the Alumni game alongside co-founder Bradley Braich, who laced up his sneakers to play his first game in five years.
Claypool's dedication to his community and cause was nothing new to Bradley.
"Chase called me a couple of years back when I was struggling, and I know he's always cared about this cause. I'm glad he came out and had fun," said Braich.
The energy and excitement continued throughout the three-point contest and the girl's all-star game featuring the province's brightest stars, including Kiera Pemberton, Avery Sussex, and Kanani Coon. The crowd was dazzled by spectacular displays of skill and athleticism and smiles filled the room as the all-stars left the court.
Following the all-stars Bradley took centre court and shared his experience and feelings about mental health. Powerful words echoed throughout the gym, reaching deep within those in attendance.
"That was as hard as it gets. I truly have been wondering why I do this and one of the things I take pride in is giving back to the community, and this is the way I know how," said Braich.
Father of Bradley and Yale Secondary head coach Bobby Braich was one of the many moved by Bradley's powerful speech.
"It's an overwhelming moment of pure happiness because you see something that you never expected if you knew what he had come through not long ago. It's hard not to break down with pure joy but at the same time, there's a sadness that comes over you because of what it took to get here. It's peaks and valleys of raw emotion and pride," said Bobby.
The stage was now set for the boys' all-stars to send the crowd off with a memorable performance, and they did not disappoint. With rim-rattling dunks on both ends of the court and a target score of 127, UBC Thunderbirds' commit Adam Olsen found himself at the line with three free throws. Olsen hit all three, clinching the victory for his team.
The game showcased British Columbia's youngest and brightest stars, but it was about more than just basketball. Irish Coquia, the reigning MVP of the St. Pats Celtics, spoke about his journey to the Provincial championship.
"There were times I wanted to stop because it was hard, but I kept pushing, and the people around me helped me a lot. It was a hard time, and I'm happy I made it through," said Coquia.
The 2023 Bigger Than Basketball Game emphasized an important message once more: allow yourself to be open and vulnerable to having a conversation. It was a reminder that mental health matters and support is always within reach.