*In the highly competitive and widely watched game of basketball, players are often polarized, misunderstood and judged by what they do on the court. There are few players that have transcended the game itself and that have emerged as giants amongst men.
Sonny Weems is such a man. As a child, Weems was born with cleft feet. When this diagnosis was learned, doctors and family were certain that the toddler would not be able to walk, let alone run.
His childhood was quite tumultuous. But, after enduring many painful years of growth and wearing corrective shoes, the young Weems was able to begin playing sports and living an active lifestyle. The budding athlete went on to become a state long jump and high jump champion in track and field at West Memphis High School.
Although Weems excelled as a stellar track and field athlete, he would ultimately go on to pursue his true love of basketball. His height and natural dexterity with the ball helped to shape his court presence. But, his dedication to the game and on-court dominance helped to solidify him as a great basketball player. After much deliberation and an outpouring of support from his family, Weems decided to make basketball his sport of choice and with that switch, his life would never be the same.
Weems graduated from West Memphis High School where he was named first team all-state as a senior. He led his team to the Arkansas 5A Championship before going on to play for two years at The University of Arkansas-Fort Smith. While there, Weems continued to perfect his craft and to polish his skillset. He became an All-American while at The University of Arkansas-Fort Smith and became ranked No. 1 in the nation by several national ranking services. Weems would go on to lead his team to two National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Eastern Conference Division titles.
The star athlete would later go on to sign with the prestigious University of Arkansas. As a Razorback, he competed for coach Stan Heath in his final year of coaching. He averaged 11.8 points per game for the SEC NCAA Division I powerhouse and would lead his team to two consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. Weems would later finish his senior year as the State Farm College Slam Dunk Champion at the NCAA Final Four. After college, he continued to pursue his dreams in basketball, as he was selected as the 39th pick in the 2008 NBA Draft by the Chicago Bulls.
Weems has played for 10 years at the professional level and is still going strong. His NBA career includes the Denver Nuggets, Toronto Raptures, Phoenix Suns and the Philadelphia 76ers. He continued his love for the sport and subsequently went on to play in Europe in the summer of 2011 for three seasons before returning to the NBA in July of 2015. But, his love for the game internationally helped to push his return overseas. He has taken international teams to multiple EuroLeague Final Fours and was named to the First Team EuroLeague Competition, which is the top of the line in international sports. He played last season in China, where he was named one of the top ten players in scoring averaging more than 30 points per game.
Weems continues to actively lead on and off the court with the work that he does to give back to the community. In 2012, he created and developed Weems Week for the youth in his hometown of West Memphis, Arkansas. The annual week-long event’s goal is to inspire and motivate the next generation of thinkers, movers, and doers. This was the 6th year that Weems hosted the event, which features a basketball camp, back to school supplies and backpack giveaway and community cleanup. Weems has traveled the world pursuing his dream of playing professional basketball and desires to help others to achieve their dreams as well.
“These kids need this. There are a lot more things to do than just running around in the streets,” said Weems.
The 2018 Weems Week, held July 30 to August 3, was met with much success and a stellar turnout. Weems Week kicked off with a community cleanup at the Sonny Weems Basketball Park in West Memphis, Arkansas. The city of West Memphis dedicated the outdoor basketball court and park to Weems in 2015 to show appreciation for his commitment to the community. From the community cleanup, Weems hosted a basketball camp at the Lehr Arena on the Academies of West Memphis campus, formerly known as West Memphis High School. The camp focused on 7th grade male athletes and helped to foster creativity, greater motor skill function and daily life advice for all attendees.
Weems Week concluded with a back to school backpack giveaway. The supplies from the backpack giveaway are one of the many highlights of the camp. It allows students that are underprivileged to have access to much needed school supplies for their return to school in the fall.
Weems’s legacy continues to grow and the work that he continues to do is helping to champion the next generation of great leaders both on and off the court.
“To inspire and to motivate” are the principles that Weems Week was founded on.
“This is my way to give back to the youth in my community. Growing up in the inner city, I was not afforded the same opportunity as many other children at the time and so I desire to build something positive that can change the lives of children in the future,” said Weems.
Weems plans to expand Weems Week to serve more students across the country. Plans for Weems Week 2019 are underway and will be finalized by early January.
As Weems continues to give back, he serves as a light on and off the court for the many aspiring basketball players to come.
“It’s not the gift that God gives someone that we should be in awe of, rather it is what a person does for his fellow man with the gift that is given,” said Weems.
For more on Sonny Weems, visit SonnyWeems13.com. follow him on social media via:
Walter James Lovett II is an author, podcaster and digital journalist that hails from West Palm Beach Florida. In 2009, he launched WITIN RADIO, a weekly podcast focusing on lifestyle, faith, film, food, sports and pop culture. This fall, Lovett will release a new comic book series and screenplay entitled “The Watcher,” based on the sex trafficking industry and sex addiction in the American Mid-South.