By Ryan Mayer
Every charity has an origin story. For TopSpin, that story involves a healthy argument among friends over who was the best on the ping pong table.
“This was all started way back in 2009 when myself, Emilio (Collins) and Mark (Tatum) were just joking around with each other about who was better at ping pong,” said Peter Farnsworth, one of the co-founders of TopSpin Charity and a former senior vice president of the NBA. “Then we said well, how about we have a ping pong tournament to settle this and we’ll invite some of our friends and turn it into a charity event. We put the first event on that year on a fairly quick turnaround and everybody loved it and wanted to continue doing it.”
Since that first tournament in 2009, the charity has put on 11 more tournaments split between New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and for the past four years Las Vegas. They’ve raised over $2.4 million dollars for 18 different partners that support education initiatives for children in lower-income communities.
Last night, TopSpin announced that they will be undertaking a new challenge. In an event held at The Peninsula Hotel in New York City, it was announced that this year the charity will be putting together their first Hoops Academy, a basketball camp for 50 kids who wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to go. They’ve partnered with New Jersey’s prestigious Hun School and basketball coach Jon Stone to put on the camp this summer from Aug. 12-16. In addition to coach Stone, Denver Nuggets assistant coach Ed Pinckney and current NBA player Randy Foye will provide instruction at the camp.
However, the camp won’t just be focused on basketball. The larger goal, as with all of what TopSpin hopes to accomplish with its events, is to help educated the children in important life areas as well.
“The camp will use basketball as a hook to get the kids interested and then from there teach them the importance of conflict resolution and scholarship as well,” said Farnsworth.
Last night’s event featured a silent auction and appearances from many of the connections that Farnsworth, Collins (Executive Vice President of Global Marketing Partnerships for the NBA), and Tatum (Deputy Commissioner of the NBA) have made through their experiences in working for the NBA. Among the attendees were Knicks legends John Starks and Earl “The Pearl” Monroe, current Knick Kyle O’Quinn as well as NBA Draft prospects Henry Ellenson, Caris Lavert, Brice Johnson, Isaiah Whitehead, Malik Beasley and Malachi Richardson. The goal of the night according to Farnsworth was to raise the $40,000 necessary to cover the full cost of the camp.
For Tatum, the education of kids is a cause that is near and dear to his heart. TopSpin and the charities they support in addition to special events like this summer’s hoops academy allow access to education for kids the otherwise may not have gotten it.
“Education is so important to me because that’s what got me into the situation that I’m in today. The reason I do something that I love to do today is because I worked hard in school and I had access to a great education,” said Tatum. “I’m a product of the New York City public school education system. I went to P.S. 181 in Brooklyn, then I.S. 227 in Brooklyn and Brooklyn Tech high school. If it weren’t for that education, I wouldn’t be doing something that I love and something that I really enjoy doing. For us, investing in kids, making sure that kids have access to the best education possible is the most impactful thing that you can do because that will pay dividends for years and years to come.”
The event is one of many future similar events that the charity hopes to put on surrounding some of the big events on the sports calendar like the NBA All-Star weekend, Super Bowl, etc. The ultimate goal according to Farsnworth is to reach the $1 million mark for money raised in a year. The next signature ping pong tournament for which the charity is named will be held in Las Vegas on July 18 at the Venetian Palazzo and hosted by Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul, who along with his Chris Paul Foundation, has been heavily involved with TopSpin for the past several years.
The all important question though, who won that original ping pong tournament among friends? That still seems to be a matter of debate. Both Tatum and Farnsworth say they’ve scored victories over the others throughout the years with Tatum’s victory being the more recent. Whatever the case, the founders are looking forward to the launch of the Hoops Academy this summer and to the continued growth of the events moving forward.
For more information on TopSpin and its upcoming events, head to their website.
Ryan Mayer is an Associate Producer for CBS Local Sports. Ryan lives in NY but comes from Philly and life as a Philly sports fan has made him cynical. Anywhere sports are being discussed, that’s where you’ll find him.