A Basketball Legend’s Most Valuable Players

In my 13 years at St. Vincent de Paul, I have never witnessed such intense captivation of a speaker at the downtown Phoenix Dining Room as I did on the morning Nancy Lieberman spoke. The greatest women’s basketball player was walking among 200 homeless men and women, fully engaging them in a dialogue about her life. It was unlike anything I’ve seen.

Nancy Lieberman

Nancy Lieberman

It was amazing to watch the transformation of the dining room go from the usual hustle and bustle to complete reverent silence. Even members of our staff and volunteers gradually lined up around the room to listen. Nancy spoke with such eloquence and candor that I found myself just as awestruck as anyone else. Watching a basketball legacy crouch down and mingle with several hundred vulnerable members of society was truly inspiring.

I was touched to see Nancy make an effort to connect with each homeless person by illustrating her colorful background from the gritty courts of Harlem to her initial lack of understanding of Christianity and its teachings. She truly got down to their level to prove that she wasn’t an illustrious Hall of Famer preaching about her success; she was a person just like them who also had fears, doubts and disappointments throughout her life.

One of the things that really touched me about Nancy’s speech was her sincerity. She truly believed in our guests and wanted to make them feel like an important part of her life. At one point, I watched many people wipe away tears from their eyes as Nancy proudly declared that they were not alone and was each a member of her team. She really saw them as MVPs in her eyes.

Nancy made a point to not be another face behind a podium that the homeless couldn’t relate to. I saw firsthand the way she uses her fame to touch others and inspire them to “Never Give Up.” It was one of the most moving experiences I’ve witnessed at the dining room.

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