IBA CHAMPIONS: Front row, from left, Chris Paul, Dawn Staley and Joey Cheek. Back row, Eddie Sutton, Seth Davis, J.C. Watts and Event Chairman Russ Gibbs.
Photo by ROGER MYERS
Almost 1,000 people including over 35 coaches, former NBA and NFL players, Olympians and sports celebrities gathered at the Renaissance Tulsa Hotel to honor three outstanding, professional athletes.
The Henry P. Iba Citizen Athlete Awards were created in 1994 by the Rotary Club of Tulsa to recognize a male and a female premiere athlete who has excelled in their sport and exemplifies a high degree of citizenship in the image of Oklahoma State University’s legendary basketball coach Henry P. Iba. Presenting sponsor was Williams and 2007 marked the first year Nike became involved as the charity sponsor.
Female recipient Dawn Staley, Temple University women’s basketball coach, former WNBA and Olympic gold medallist and male recipient Chris Paul, New Orleans / Oklahoma City Hornets point guard were presented a bronze trophy and $10,000 payable to the charity of their choice. Staley chose the Dawn Staley Foundation and Paul chose the CP3 Foundation.
Joey Cheek, Olympic gold medallist speed skater, was the second recipient of the President’s Award. The first President’s Award recipient was Coach John Wooden in 1994. Cheek also received a $10,000 check to his favorite charity, the Where Will We Be organization.
Seth Davis, Sports Illustrated writer and CBS Sports analyst, was the master of ceremonies. J.C. Watts, former Oklahoma University and CFL quarterback and Congressman, was the keynote speaker. Also attending was Iba Awards Advisory Board Chairman and retired Oklahoma State University basketball coach Eddie Sutton. Charlene Thomas-Swinson, University of Tulsa women’s basketball coach, presented Staley’s award; Joe Castiglione, University of Oklahoma athletic director, introduced J.C. Watts and Oklahoma University men’s basketball coach Jeff Capel presented the award to Paul. Linda Bradshaw, president of the Rotary Club of Tulsa, presented the President’s Award to Joey Cheek.
Staley was a five-time WNBA All-Star and was chosen to the league’s inaugural all-decade team. She was a three-time Olympic gold medallist and was selected as a flag bearer at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece. She was USA Basketball’s Female Athlete of the Year twice. Beginning this year, the WNBA will present the Dawn Staley Community Leadership Award to the player who best exemplifies the characteristics of a leader in the community in which she works or lives. The Dawn Staley Foundation’s mission is to create a future of hope for at-risk youth by providing opportunities that help them realize their dreams and become productive and responsible citizens. The creation and support of educational and sports programs which challenge minds, build character, and help youth to develop to their fullest potential academically, socially and physically are the essence of the foundation. To achieve its mission, the foundation supports a variety of programs including an after school program, summer basketball league and mentoring programs for girls, as well as “Day in the Park,” an annual daylong community celebration in North Philadelphia.
Paul was named NBA’s 2006 Rookie of the Year. He was the fourth overall pick in the 2005 NBA draft by the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets. He was two-time All-American at Wake Forest University, Academic All-American, named 2004 ACC Rookie of the Year and was a unanimous ACC All-Rookie Team selection. When Paul scored 61 points in one game as a high school senior, he did so in honor of his grandfather, who was tragically murdered days before. When Paul reached the 61-point mark (his grandfather was 61-years old), he intentionally missed a free throw, then took himself out of the game even though the state high school scoring record was well within reach. Paul and his family created the CP3 Foundation (a combination of his initials and jersey number) in partnership with The Winston-Salem Foundation to support charitable causes such as refurbishing basketball courts in recreation centers, donating food baskets and bikes for underprivileged children in Oklahoma City and New Orleans, and the establishment of the Nathaniel Jones Scholarship Fund to enable a Forsyth County student to attend Wake Forest University.
Cheek won a gold medal at the 2006 Olympics in Torino, Italy in the 500 meter speed skating, and a silver medal in the 1,000 meter race. He won a bronze medal in the 1,000 at the 2002 Olympics. After receiving the gold medal, he deflected questions about his victory and instead spoke about genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan. He announced a $40,000 donation to help set things right and challenged others to match his efforts. He joined forces with Right To Play, an athlete-driven international humanitarian organization that uses sports as a tool for the development of children in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the world and has helped raise over $1 million for charitable causes. Cheek’s Where Will We Be organization’s goal is to bring together the world’s greatest Olympic and professional athletes to put international pressure not only on Sudan, but also on those countries that support the policy of inaction in the face of this dire humanitarian crisis.
Since its inception, the Henry P. Iba Citizen Athlete Awards event has donated over $1 million to charities. For more information, visit www.ibaawards.com.