CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Owner Michael Jordan and his struggling Bobcats turned their focus Monday to fighting hunger in the Charlotte area.
The Bobcats, who have lost 17 of their last 18 games, championed the community effort as part of the "Cats Care" initiative.
Jordan arrived at the Bobcats arena as a smiling passenger in a 26-foot, 14,000-pound refrigerated mobile pantry worth $125,000 that the Bobcats, along with the team's broadcast partner — FOX SportsSouth — donated to the Second Harvest Food Bank. They also donated an additional $125,000 in food to be distributed around the area.
Jordan didn't talk about his organization's struggles on the court, but as he emerged from the truck to a chorus of cheers from those lined up around the corner to receive food, he told them the Bobcats were here to help.
"When I first took over the team one of the things I wanted to emphasize was for the Bobcats to connect back to the community," Jordan said. "It's a very beautiful truck and hopefully it's going to serve a lot of people. We feel deep in our hearts that we owe back to the community for what the community has done for us."
Kay Carter, the executive director of Second Harvest Food Bank, said she was overwhelmed by the donation, calling it "the best day ever" in the organization's 30 years of existence.
She said there are enough canned goods to reach the top of Mount Everest if stacked together.
"The number of people this is going to impact is unbelievable," Carter said. "It means the world to the people who are need in our community. It's exciting to me. And why it's exciting is because people are hungry and kids are hungry and they need to be fed."
The entire Bobcats staff, including players and coaches, participated in a series of food distribution activities at locations throughout the Charlotte region throughout the day Monday, including Salvation Army Center of Hope Women's and Children's Shelter and Second Harvest Food Bank, as well as the Mobile Pantry at J.H. Gunn Elementary School and Kids CafÉ at the Stratford-Richardson YMCA.
Jordan made several stops during the all-day event.
"Our staff, players and coaches have continually been willing participants and today is one of many examples of our efforts to show our commitment to the community," Jordan said.
After his initial speech, Jordan went inside the arena to help his employees hand out chickens, rolls, canned foods, Oreo cookies and lemonade to a line of hundreds of hungry people that stretched more than two blocks.
Flashing his famous smile, Jordan shook hands and chatted with people as they went through the line.
"I think a lot of them are more excited about seeing MJ," joked Bobcats guard Kemba Walker.
Lucille Robertson of Charlotte was first through the line.
"I think this is really nice because we have a lot of senior citizens who are in need," Robertson said. "It's just a wonderful event. It's impressive to see Michael Jordan here too, front and center. I want to tell him that we do appreciate it. We really do."
Last fall the Bobcats identified hunger as the most pressing issue facing this community and launched its full court press on hunger during the holiday season, feeding approximately 4,000 people for Thanksgiving and donating an additional 200 turkeys.
This is the second year of the Cats Care initiative.
Last year the Bobcats donated $250,000 to help keep middle school sports alive in Charlotte Mecklenburg County schools after budget cuts threatened to eliminate them.
Walker simply shook his head as he watched the hundreds of people walk through the line to pick up free food and drinks.
"It's pretty cool when you can put smiles on people's faces like we have today," Walker said.