PLANO — As Maxi Kleber was minutes away from greeting nearly 200 kids Tuesday morning at the Plano Sports Authority, those kids started shouting, “Maxi! Max! Max!”
The chants grew louder as the fifth-year Dallas Mavericks forward approached the crowd of children at Mavs Academy Hoop Camp. Once the kids calmed down, Kleber started telling his story of growing up and playing basketball in Germany.
“I remember my childhood when we had summer, no school, and we just played basketball,” Kleber told Mavs.com. “My friends and I just had fun, and it reminds me of that.
“So as a returning player, I have the chance to share that fun and go out there and teach them some basketball and have fun.”
Indeed, Tuesday was such a surreal platform for Kleber. He was once an impressionable camper when he listened to professional athletes teach him about the finer things in life and basketball. Now he’s the professional athlete teaching impressionable campers the finer things in life and basketball.
“My hometown has this professional basketball club, and these people came to our camps,” Kleber said. “It was funny when I was a kid because we would go to games, and you see these players on the court, and then you go to basketball camp and these players come to camp.
“Obviously, it’s a special moment. It’s kind of like something you memorize as a kid. Just seeing these players, because they talk about their dedication to the game and how they love it and what they do. It’s like an idol that you look up to and maybe you want to be like that at some point too.
Kleber started attending basketball camps when he was 10 years old.
“That’s when I really started to like the game, because you go (to the camps) with your friends and hang around,” he said. “It’s not just basketball.
“You have a good time and eat together during lunch breaks.”
Born and raised in the same city – Würzburg, Germany – that produced the legendary Dirk Nowitzki, Kleber averaged seven points and a career-high 5.9 rebounds for a Mavs team that lost to the eventual champion. of the NBA Golden State Warriors this season in the Western Conference. Finals.
Essentially, attending basketball camps, doing drills and playing knockout games with the kids and sharing his life experiences is how Kleber gives back. He thought as a child that one day he would be able to contribute in this way, but he wasn’t sure.
“As basketball players, you coach or whatever, so I haven’t really thought about it,” said Kleber, 30. “But I knew I loved basketball and I think I always understood the game well.
“Obviously there are more talented people, but I always felt that I could teach certain things. Even now, I enjoy teaching basketball to young children. When I come back to Germany and see children playing, I play basketball with them. It’s just a fun time to share, and that’s what connects everyone to basketball.