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When Arts, Education, and Sports Hit the Court Together

By Sarah Mote

Four dark-skinned young boys stand in front of a vibrant multi-colored mural with triangular shapes of red, blue, purple, yellow, orange, prink with also paintings of Frida Kahlo and Barak Obama, and a text that says

What happens when sports and the arts team up on the court of economic development? 

(Brace yourself for the basketball analogy . . .)

What you get is a buzzer-beater slam dunk for the creative economy. 

The NBA Foundation (yes, that NBA) recently announced its eleventh round of grants totaling $8.6 million to 46 organizations across the United States, all to uplift the visibility of youth-serving organizations across its league markets. 

The mission of these grants is to drive economic opportunity in the Black community by funding programs that generate successful transitions from school to meaningful employment for Black youth. These funded organizations range from The American Cancer Society to the Dallas Black Dance Theater, preparing young people for a diverse range of careers in a variety of industries, including the arts, foodways, and entertainment.

“It really is about fostering opportunity and extending resources to young people and organizations that oftentimes don’t receive those resources,” said Greg Taylor, the executive director of the NBA Foundation in its press release announcing the grantees

The foundation aligns with NBA teams and team-affiliated organizations to invest in partnerships that promote school-to-career employment opportunities including job readiness, skills training, internships, job placement, and career advancement.

Among the NBA Foundation’s 46 grant awardees are 12 arts organizations right here in America’s heartland—in Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Austin, Dallas, Houston, and Kansas City.

Meet the awardees.

Young school children take a dance class in a school gymnasium.

Photo courtesy of MECA Houston


It’s a powerful catalyst and collaboration when sports, arts, and education come together to stoke economic empowerment and mobility for Black youth. Arts Connect Houston, an organization supported by M-AAA, received one of these grants to fund its internship program for Black students in Houston I.S.D.

“This represents a pivotal moment for Arts Connect Houston and our community,” says Jack McBride, executive director of Arts Connect Houston. “Data show that Black students have historically faced barriers in accessing careers in the arts. With this gift from the NBA Foundation, we can support young Black artists with tools and career opportunities, while simultaneously building a pipeline that will strengthen our local and creative economy.”

You can’t be what you can’t see—and initiatives like this broaden horizons, inspire creativity, and cultivate a generation of leaders in the heartland and beyond poised to effect enduring change in their communities and across the arts ecosystem.

Founded in 2020, the NBA Foundation has invested $100 million to create economic empowerment in Black communities. Click here to read more about the NBA Foundation’s 10-year commitment and all the grantees


Header photography: Photo courtesy of Community Artists’ Collective