Lonnie Walker IV assists in giving back to Reading Blacktop basketball league
Lonnie Walker IV and Eric Wise, who works for adidas, will donate 300 pairs of shoes to kids
Lonnie Walker IV's first assist as a pro will lead to hundreds of young basketball players from his hometown wearing new sneakers.
Walker, who signed an endorsement deal with shoemaker Adidas before being drafted last month by the San Antonio Spurs, has teamed with another former Red Knight, Eric Wise, to deliver 300 pairs of shoes to Reading's Blacktop Basketball League.
Wise, an executive at Adidas, got the ball rolling months before Walker was drafted. He watched Walker play at Reading High and then at the University of Miami and advised his company to target Walker as a potential company representative. The link in helping their shared hometown was a natural, and Blacktop officials soon will begin distributing more than $30,000 worth of shoes to local players.
Walker, of course, has been a source of inspiration for local kids who watched him lead the Red Knights to their first state championship in 2017. He has always been a Reading-first guy and is continuing on that path now that he is in the NBA. Wise said plans are in the works to bring Walker, who played in the Blacktop League as a kid, to town for the league's championship games July 26-27 at Geigle Complex.
"All the kids are inspired by Lonnie's story," said Wynton Butler, a Blacktop board member. "It's great that they have somebody they have seen, they have touched, and they have felt make it like this.
"Lonnie has been nothing but genuine in being a role model and carrying himself the right way. That's what he's done from the beginning. He's everything we knew he would be, in terms of how he carries himself. He's been nothing but a perfect role model."
Wise said he and adidas have long-term plans to continue their affiliation with Reading and hope to bring the Red Knights into the fold as a branded team.
"It's a cool story when you have youth (players) up through Lonnie (wearing) that red thread," he said. "Having that is a huge step forward."
Butler said that the KTB program, in addition to teaching basketball skills, emphasizes the importance of being successful, productive citizens.