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Apparently, Pau Gasol isn't the only European big man combining NBA buckets with charitable donations. Dirk Nowitzki is in the giving spirit, too. The Dallas Mavericks superstar is teaming with the iBellieve Foundation to raise money for research on MPS II, also known as Hunter syndrome, a rare and progressively debilitating genetic disorder that almost exclusively affects males.
People with MPS are born without an enzyme that breaks down long chains of sugars in their bodies; over a long enough time, the buildup of those sugars reaches a really dangerous level that causes major health issues, according to the National Institutes of Health. Enlarged heads, buildups of fluid in the brain, bone and joint deformities, sleep apnea, closed airways, enlarged livers and spleens, hearing loss, impaired vision, carpal tunnel syndrome and heart valve abnormalities are just some of the complications that can befall MPS II sufferers, who don't begin to show signs of the condition for the first two to four years of their lives. Those with mild cases often reach adulthood; those with severe cases have a life expectancy of between 10 and 20 years.
Due in part to the low incidence of the disorder — it occurs in "approximately 1 in 100,000 to 1 in 170,000 males," according to the NIH — funding for MPS II research isn't quite as robust as it is for some other afflictions, which has led Dirk to step up to the plate in a pretty significant way:
NBA superstar Dirk Nowitzki has generously pledged to donate $20 for every 2 point field goal his team, the Dallas Mavericks, scores November 6 - December 6, 2013, to support MPS II research. Dirk’s support lines up with the Two for MPS II campaign and will go a long way in helping us reach our campaign goal of $10,000.
As a long time friend and supporter of iBellieve Foundation founder, Simon Ibell, Dirk has seen firsthand the developments of MPS II research over the years, including the incredible difference enzyme replacement infusions have made in Simon’s life.
Every Two for MPS II campaign donation will go directly towards funding MPS II research to find a cure. Given recent positive developments, a cure is probable within the next decade.
The iBellieve Foundation was started by Simon Ibell, a Toronto native born with MPS II who was named the 2003 Canadian Spirit of Sport Story of the Year after biking 500 kilometers in 10 days to raise for MPS diseases alongside a number of athletes, including Nowitzki's then-teammate and close friend, Steve Nash. Through the Canadian point guard, Nowitzki and others, including Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, got to know Ibell's story and mission, and became involved in his cause, according to a 2009 Toronto Star feature:
"What first caught my attention was that they (Nash) called him 'small balls' and he loved it," says Mark Cuban, the American billionaire and owner of the Dallas Mavericks who was introduced to Ibell by Nash in 2000. The two have been firm friends since.
"Simon," he writes in an email to the Star, "is the guy you were great friends with growing up and you stayed in touch with because he is so much fun to be around." [...]
Nash, who was four years ahead at St. Michael's, says Ibell is "a remarkable person, and you feel that from the moment you meet him.
"I'll always stand behind Simon. He's a close friend and a champion for many people and causes. What he and other kids face with MPS is something we'd like to change, and Simon has made a big impact on that reality already."
And now, Nowitzki and his teammates are helping increase that impact. The Mavericks have played eight games since Nov. 6 and hit 233 2-point field goals during that stretch. Using advanced statistical analysis, I have deduced that iBellieve has already banked $4,660, which is pretty decent.
They've got eight more coming, with three coming against top-10 defenses (the Golden State Warriors, Minnesota Timberwolves and Charlotte Bobcats), three coming against bottom-10 defenses (the Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets, whom they face twice) and two against middling squads (the Atlanta Hawks and New Orleans Pelicans). If they can replicate their output over the past two weeks, they'll put iBellieve within hailing distance of that $10,000 goal. If Rick Carlisle's fourth-ranked offense keeps getting lights out play from Dirk and new running buddy Monta Ellis, who's scored 22.5 points and six assists per game over the last eight outings, they might even hit the mark by themselves. (If you want to help out and score a bucket or two yourself, you can do so here.)
I'm not going to suggest that the Mavericks' upcoming opponents take it easy on Dirk and company defensively. I'm just saying that if they notice Dirk's foot's on the line when he's getting ready to fire that pick-and-pop jumper, maybe they don't have to contest super hard. They can always just say they were letting him take a low-percentage long 2-pointer, getting the entire stat-head community to come out and defend them, and maybe help kick an extra 20 to a good cause. Win-win. Well, except for the lost points, but hey, I bet Dirk'll be a good enough sport to let you get them back on the other end.
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