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Devin Booker makes big impact with Special Olympics Arizona athletes

Posted at 4:24 AM, Jul 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-14 09:46:37-04

"I think basketball was my first love."

Twenty-four-year-old Devon Cordova from Peoria loves all Arizona sports teams, but there's something about the Phoenix Suns that runs through his veins.

"My mom and my grandma loved basketball and they started me loving basketball," he explains. "There's a picture of me at like 3 years old with a Suns uniform."

And now Cordova is an athlete himself with Special Olympics Arizona. He says there is no sport he can't tackle!

As much as he loves and supports all Arizona athletes, there may be one that has a special place in his heart.

"If his name is Devin, he's legendary."

But it's more than the fact that both Devin Booker and Devon Cordova share the same first name (although spelled differently).

"There really is a passion with individuals with special needs," explains Jamie Heckerman, president and CEO of Special Olympics Arizona. As a college wheelchair basketball player at the University of Arizona, Heckerman knows how important it is to have allies like Booker.

"Anything he can, he will give."

RELATED: Devin Booker wins season-long NBA Community Assist Award for local outreach

In 2019, Special Olympics Arizona scored $100,000 in grants through Devin Booker's Starting Five charity. That money went towards creating a basketball court at the Special Olympics Arizona facility in Goodyear. It's an escape where young athletes like Cordova see no limits.

But there was something else Booker did that Cordova says he will never forget.

"It was life-changing," he explains.

Just before Christmas 2020, Booker surprised Devon and several other athletes with swag bags, autographed basketballs, and some one-on-one time over Zoom.

"I felt like, OMG, I just talked to Devin Booker!"

And for Cordova, the meeting came at just the right time. A month earlier, Devon's mom, the person who ignited his passion for the Suns all those years ago, passed away.

"I was just on Cloud 9 because the loss of my brought back even more joy...Suns basketball actually helped me through my depression. It really brings family and friends and bonding together."

The impact Devin Booker is making on the hardwood at Phoenix Suns Arena is undeniable, but there might be an even bigger impact happening on a much smaller court that goes beyond what any slam dunk or three-pointer could ever achieve.

To learn more about Devin Booker's Starting Five charity, click here.

To learn more about Special Olympics Arizona or to donate, head here.