Special Olympian Tairek and Clippers team up for a special practice

Special Olympian Tairek was thrilled admiring his new prized possession, a pair of new, white Blake Griffin-autographed shoes.

Tairek, a 14-year-old Los Angeles resident, was sitting in a chair courtside at the facility watching practice and chatting with players who stopped by to say hello. Tairek’s smile showed off pure exhilaration since he’s a diehard Clippers fan. He didn’t know he would be hanging with the Clippers until he arrived on Saturday.  

Things got better when he was asked to leave his chair and lead the Clippers in their pre-practice chant. He walked over to the huddle, smiling all the way there, as Chris Paul and Blake Griffin opened part of the human circle so he could join them.

"On three, we’re saying Special Olympics today," Doc Rivers said.

Tairek put his left arm in the huddle, and Griffin put his right hand on his shoulder. Paul said: "Say it loud."

"One, two, three," Tairek yelled.

And Tairek and the Clippers said "Special Olympics" together. Paul gave Tairek a high-five, and Tairek walked back to his seat with a grin and lifetime of memories.

Karin Moore, a special education instructor for LAUSD, reminded Tariek that he just started the Clippers practice and how special that was for him.

"It’s just cool to have people come in and have interaction like that," Blake Griffin said. "It’s cool to see a smile on his face, making him so happy when he’s here. Same for our guys. You see everyone that walks over there and talks to him walks away feeling better. It’s a neat thing."

Tairek has asthma, severe enough that he has a trach in his throat that helps with breathing and a nurse with him who monitors him during physical activity. That doesn’t stop him from playing basketball for a team at Los Angeles High School. The Romans are 1-1 this season. His teammates are all Lakers fans, and he’s the lone player who supports the Clippers.

"He’s the biggest Clippers fan, so he’s the one black sheep because everyone else are Lakers fans," said Karin Moore, an adapted physical education teacher for LAUSD. "He doesn’t go with the flow. He likes to dance, and he’s the player rooting for his teammates. He’s a team player."

Tairek has a lot in common with Paul, since he likes to pass the ball, and plenty in common with Dahntay Jones, because they both like to cheer for their teammates on the bench.

The day was a bit overwhelming for Tairek, in a lovely way, because he met so many new people.

"He was more shocked," Moore said. "He didn’t know they would come and talk to him, so he was feeling like a celebrity."

Special Olympians from around the world will be in Los Angeles, July 24-Aug. 2. Doc Rivers, who’s long been involved with the Special Olympics, is on the board for this summer’s games and was campaigning for more publicity for the event.

"We need the excitement in this city," Rivers said. "We need people to come out. Kids from all over the world are coming. We’ve got to get our hands in this, everybody in L.A.

"This is a really neat thing in L.A. to showcase the city of L.A., (and) more importantly for these kids. There are kids in Iraq and Iran, all over the Middle East, (and) to be a special Olympian and to be able to celebrate what they are, it’s not celebrated (there)."

Rivers talked to Tairek and admired the shoes from Griffin.

"Their joy is amazing," Rivers said of Special Olympic athletes. "They want to win, but a lot of them want to finish. It says a lot."

Tairek didn’t say a lot, but he was passionate about the things he did say. One of the things he liked about Griffin are his dunks.

Asked who one of the players he enjoyed meeting was, Tairek said, with a huge smile, "Baby!"

Glen "Big Baby" Davis, who was shooting before practice and noticed Tairek was surrounded by a big group of people.

"What’s up Tairek?" Davis yelled from across the court. "They treating you good? If not, let me know."

Later Davis stopped by and asked about those new shoes, then asked Griffin why Griffin didn’t give him a pair.

It was all in good fun.

Tairek will have more time with the Clippers on Monday as he’ll attend the game against the Denver Nuggets at Staples Center.

He was at Saturday’s practice with the help of Omaze, an organization that specializes in once-in-a-liftetime opportunities and experiences that benefit charities.

Omaze will also auction a day with the Clippers in an online raffle.

The day was exciting for Tairek, but the Clippers gleaned so much from Tairek’s presence as well.

"Meeting Tairek is nice, meeting all those kids," Rivers said. "At our golf tournament they had a kid doing putts for us. He actually made our putt, which is amazing since we all missed it and he made it. They’re amazing people. They have amazing spirit. They have amazing toughness. You think of the things they have to go through to perform a sports act. I think it’s pretty cool."