Ebony Goes to Lebanon

by Justin Whitaker | October 30, 2009
Fever forward Ebony Hoffman traveled overseas in October like most of her Indiana Fever teammates. The only difference in their journeys was that Hoffman was not going to play basketball. Hoffman was asked to go on a special trip to Lebanon where she would help hold basketball clinics for coaches, teenagers and children. SportsUnited, a U.S. State Department program, in coalition with the NBA/WNBA Cares initiative traveled to Lebanon from October 20-25.

WNBA president Donna Orender and former four-time NBA All-Star Rolando Blackman traveled with Hoffman to the Middle Eastern country. Hoffman was ready to go before they even told her where.

“They asked me ‘would you like to travel to...,’ and I cut them off and immediately I said yes,” Hoffman said. “I love traveling and said yes before they even told me it was to Lebanon.” Upon arriving, Hoffman was amazed by what she saw.

“As our plane flew in, I looked down and saw beautiful beaches,” Hoffman said. “The view from my hotel room was very pretty also, overlooking the beach and seeing mountains.” The country was not what Hoffman expected after watching and hearing things about the country from the media.

“I was expecting this war-torn country but I did not see that. I saw a beautiful country where things were modernized,” Hoffman said. The reception from the Lebanese was very welcoming for the envoys.

“They opened their arms to us. At a few of the clinics, people were even offering us to stay in their homes,” Hoffman said. “They were very nice people.”

During their five-day trip, the group traveled to four different cities. The cities were usually only 45 to 60 minutes away from the capital city of Beirut, where Hoffman and the others stayed. The country is similar to the size of Delaware.

The group traveled in armored cars throughout their trip. Hoffman felt that things were safe at all times, though.

“The only reason we had the armored cars was because of the U.S. government officials with us,” Hoffman said. “We would have been fine just driving ourselves, I never felt endangered during the trip. There were no worries about our safety.”

At the clinics, Hoffman, Blackman and Orender all did different activities to get the coaches and children involved.

“Donna would get the kids all running around to get them warmed up,” Hoffman said. “I showed them some fundamental defense moves and Rolando was showing them some plays. The coaches really wanted to see some American plays.”

The American and the European games are much different than people would expect.

“They did not want to create tension among the games, so the kids were not very physical when playing,” Hoffman said. “During a three-on-three tournament, if a kid committed a foul then he would have to come out of the game. Then it would be played 3-on-2. Possibly it could have been played 3-on-1, if the other kid fouled too. The kids that fouled could only come back in the game once the other team had scored.”

Another difference was the culture. Because of the different religions there, girls are not always viewed as equals. A few girls approached Hoffman expressing concerns about the way women’s basketball is viewed.

“These three girls came up to me saying that nobody respected them or cared,” Hoffman said. “They just wanted to play ball and asked me how to get better. Over there it is rare to have a basketball goal or gym, let alone a ball. I just told the girls to practice when they can, if they can. That was tough.”

Hoffman took away a few things from her trip that stuck with her.

“Basketball is universal,” Hoffman said. “It is a game to deal with emotions and cope with things. The sport is very relieving and uniting.”

What about if the WNBA asked her to travel again?

“Absolutely, I loved it,” Hoffman said. “I would go right now.”