SALT LAKE CITY — When Utah Jazz point guard Mike Conley was a youngster — he guesses he was 4 or 5 years old — his father, Olympic gold medalist Mike Conley Sr., took him to a charity golf tournament.

Given his age at the time, it’s natural that Conley Jr.’s main focus was on the fact that Michael Jordan was also there, but as he grew up, his father and mother Regina continually instilled in him the importance of giving back to the different communities they lived in and to people in need.

A 13-year NBA pro, Conley has built a reputation for being generous with his means in giving back like his parents taught him to, and that is continuing during the coronavirus pandemic.

On Wednesday, Conley announced he is donating $200,000 to communities that he has ties to to help ease some of the suffering caused by the pandemic.

Related
Utah Jazz’s experience with coronavirus proves how quickly life can change

Conley’s donation will be distributed among the Utah Food Bank in Salt Lake City; CodeCrew in Memphis, Tennessee; Community Shelter Board and the Columbus Urban League in Columbus, Ohio; the Indianapolis Public Schools Foundation in Indianapolis; and the New Haven Missionary Baptist Church in West Helena, Arkansas.

The Jazz guard was born and raised in Arkansas and later played high school basketball in Indiana before playing collegiately at Ohio State in Columbus, where he and his wife Mary met and where they live in the offseason (and where they are during the pandemic). He spent the first 12 years of his NBA career with the Memphis Grizzlies before joining the Jazz last summer.

“It’s vital that we who have a platform like we do and a stage like we do to utilize it the best that we can,” he said, “because who knows how long I’ll get where my voice can mean something, and while it does, just try to use it as much as I can and use my time and money and resources to help.”

Just as his own father exposed him to the concept of charity work when he was young, Conley is hoping to do the same for his young boys (he and his wife are also expecting their third child in the summer). Additionally, he hopes that by giving back, it motivates others to do the same however they can.

“That’s the most special part of it for me, is not only am I helping these families and people in need, but to inspire the next generation or an adult or a high school kid or anybody who’s thinking about doing something special for another person,” he said. “Just knowing that they might go out there and really do that is really cool.”

Conley noted that doesn’t necessarily have to involve donating money to something. He recalled during his first few years in Memphis getting the chance to mentor a youngster who was in an unstable situation. Conley would regularly offer words of encouragement, telling the boy he could accomplish what he put his mind to.

They stopped seeing each other after about a year-and-a-half, but in the latter stages of Conley’s time with the Grizzlies, a grown man wearing a suit walked up to him and told him he was the boy he had mentored and he was getting ready to go to college. He told Conley that without that mentoring, he didn’t think it would have ever happened.

“That kind of moment,” Conley said, “is something that I think, if anybody ever gets that opportunity, you understand the power of just a conversation or just being there for somebody and listening can do for somebody.”