Fourteen-year-old Anthony Muobike has a passion, and that passion is basketball.
The teen spends nearly every spare minute out front dribbling the ball on his north Edmonton driveway — sometimes upwards of four hours a day. But little did he know that all of his dribbling caught the attention of one of his neighbours.
“I thought that whenever I dribble it made a racket and people want to sleep or something like that,” Muobike said outside his home Tuesday night.
“I did not know that dribbling that ball, practising at least maybe two or four hours a day, would actually have an influence.”
Ian Ray, who has lived in the neighbourhood for about 13 years, said the young man’s basketball skills caught his eye. But he couldn’t help but notice one thing was missing.
“He was just a kid who dribbled a basketball — all day, all night,” Ray said.
“I kind of figured it would be cool if he had a net.”
Ray took to Facebook to put out a call for help and the power of social media took over. Offers came in from several community members who wanted to donate their used nets to Muobike. But the post garnered so much attention the area Canadian Tire swooshed in and donated a brand new net.
But still, the community wanted to do more. Cash donations poured in and the community ended up with $750 for the teen, which was used to buy him a Sport Chek gift card.
“I didn’t expect it to blow up like it did but the north side is a pretty strong community and everyone is willing to chip in when they have to. It was really nice,” Ray said.
Muobike had no idea any of this was going on until the doorbell rang on Monday night.
“I come outside and I see a man I barely ever see,” the teen explained.
That man was Ray and he came with a new net, custom basketball and gift card in tow. Muobike said the gesture was a total shock.
“Holy moly. I just see the net and it didn’t even matter that it wasn’t built yet, it was just in the box. I was like holy moly, that’s crazy,” he said.
“I was like, ‘Why are you doing this?’ I was so confused. I didn’t say it to him specifically, but it was in my head. Why me? … I didn’t know people were watching me do this.
“It does touch my heart. It actually just makes me feel happy inside. It just makes my mind blow. Like wow.”
Muobike’s mom was just as overwhelmed by the thoughtful gift.
“Wow. This is huge. I didn’t see it coming. I didn’t know I had such a great community that looks out for one another,” Leticia Muobike said. “I keep telling him, I’m going to get it next week, next month. This is really huge for me and my family. I’m overwhelmed by the love.”
The family only moved into the neighbourhood last year, and Leticia said she’s grateful for the sense of community in the area.
“I’m speechless. … This means a lot to me and my family,” she said.
“I don’t have to see him bounce the ball around anymore. At least he has somewhere to practise and see his dream. This is a dream come true and I thank everyone who believes in him. … He said he’s going to make everyone proud.”
The teen is also destined to make his community proud.
“I will succeed. I will be in the NBA — 2026 I’ll be there and then try to give back to those people and I will make them all proud. I will be up on your TV,” he said with a smile.
“These small things can make you go the whole way.”
With kids who play sports himself, Ray was just happy to be part of the group effort.
“He’s a good kid,” he said. “He’s never causing any trouble or anything so it’s nice to get him something like that. … It’s pretty cool how determined he is.”