SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley had a front-row seat to the event that put the world on hold.
On March 11, it was his teammate, Jazz center Rudy Gobert, who tested positive for the novel coronavirus that suspending the league in a matter of minutes and started a domino effect across the country.
"Being on the front line, it was a little bit more surreal and more scary and more right in front of you," Conley told reporters last month. "I think that's why we take it even more serious than even most people, because once it is right in front of you it’s like, 'Oh, my gosh. This is real. This is a definite threat to all of us.'"
That is why Conley is donating $200,000 to assist communities amid the coronavirus pandemic, the point guard announced Wednesday. The donation will be split among the places Conley has called home, including Utah.
A portion of Conley’s donation will go to the Utah Food Bank.
Conley will also donate to CodeCrew in Memphis, Tennessee; the Community Shelter Board and Columbus Urban League in Ohio; the Indianapolis Public Schools foundation; and the New Haven Missionary Baptist Church in West Helena, Arkansas.
It’s been over two months since that scary day in Oklahoma City when his mind was racing at the thought of not only his teammate having it, but he, himself, getting it. Those two months have been filled with him watching the effects of the virus from his home him in Columbus, Ohio, and thinking of ways to help.
“With the way the COVID kind of sprung onto the scene and took us all by, in a way that it did, immediately, my knee-jerk reaction is to do something right away,” Conley told reporters on a video conference call Wednesday. “But I just didn't know exactly what areas would be affected most and didn't want to just jump in and not have a clear direction on what I wanted to be putting some of my time to.”
So, he waited to see the impact the coronavirus would have on the people that have been his neighbors. In Utah, he saw the job loss and knew he could at least help in providing some meals for those in desperate need.
“I figured that there's a lot of people, they're going to be in a situation, especially with what's been happening over the last few months and even going forward,” Conley said.
Conley’s contributions will help provide more than 194,000 meals for Utahns facing hunger, according to a news release. And that might just be the beginning.
“It might be a one-time spring onto the scene thing, but it's something that I plan on continuing to do because this is not going away anytime soon,” Conley said. “And I just love the great work that they've been doing in the city of Salt Lake City, and throughout the state.”
Conley said he wanted to find different areas in each state to help, in order to help a broad spectrum of people. In Indianapolis, it’s public schools. In Memphis, it’s a computer training school. In Arkansas, a church.
“I wanted to be there for the communities that have been fundamental to my personal growth and are now suffering due to the effects of this pandemic,” Conley said. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.”