He’s Got Game, and Heart

Former UNLV Rebel and NBA All-Star Shawn Marion comes back to give back

Four-time NBA All-Star Shawn Marion returns to the city that launched him to fame July 23-24 to raise scholarship money for single parents pursuing post-secondary education at UNLV.

Michelle Williams of Destiny’s Child joins the former Rebel and current Dallas Maverick at Tao on July 23 as they host a kickoff party. The Shawn Marion Foundation Celebrity Poker Tournament gets under way at noon the following day at the Palms, after onsite registration.

“We’ve got a lot of celebrities coming in for it, and it’s going to be a great event,” Marion says, speaking to Vegas Seven by phone while stuck in afternoon traffic in Dallas.

He and Williams will play in the five-hour, $250 buy-in poker tournament, as will Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade and actors Mekhi Phifer, Natasha Alam (True Blood), Jill Marie Jones (Girlfriends), Claudia Jordan (The Celebrity Apprentice) and Bob Guiney (The Bachelor). The Palms donated the prize “money”—$25,000 in promotional chips.

Raising money for single-parent families is close to Marion’s heart: He and his three sisters were raised by a single mother. And while the 32-year-old, 6-foot, 7-inch forward has no children (“I’m a kid myself,” he says), he is driven to help kids who are growing up in similar situations.

Marion launched the foundation (shawnmarionfoundation.org) three years ago with a personal check for $100,000, and the charity has since funded two partial scholarships for UNLV students, who were selected by essay submissions.

“I want to send someone to school, to take care of them for four years, but we can only do so much,” he says.

Marion graduated from UNLV in 1998 with a communications degree, and was an NBA first-round draft pick the following year. Ten years after that, he signed a five-year, $39 million contract.

Despite achieving fame and fortune, he hasn’t forgotten Southern Nevada, and his mother and sister still live here.

“I love Vegas. That’s sort of where it all began for me,” he says. “I was only there for one year, but I feel like I’ve been there for 11 years.”