Ayton Donates to JA Bahamas and Discusses His Offseason Focus

Much maligned by the media as his Phoenix Suns exited the NBA playoffs last May, Deandre Ayton said his offseason has been inspired by a renewed focus.

“Changing the narrative,” Ayton said of his plans for the offseason, “I could feel the whole world hating me in a way. I think I’m the guy a lot of people pointed at, I could see it and feel it. Mainly what I’ve been working 5-6 days a week since we’ve lost, is just motivating myself to change the narrative of what people think about me.” 

Ayton was the subject of criticism after averaging 10.8 points and 8.2 rebounds per game against eventual Finals MVP Nikola Jokic as the Suns were eliminated by the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals.

Jokic averaged 34.5 points, 13.2 rebounds, and 10.3 assists per game in the series.

“I feel like I have no fans out here and I can feel it because I see the whole world saying it,” he added, “My goal this whole summer is to change the narrative. Just unlock whatever it is 

Ayton returned home yesterday to announce a $10,000 donation to the Junior Achievements (JA) Bahamas for their 2023- 24 programming. 

“I just want to be able to provide resources for programs here. There’s a reason why I’m so big on things like JA having resources in The Bahamas,” Ayton said, “I was blessed to be put in the position I’m in, having an opportunity to go to the United States and see the resources they have, the risks they take, even when they fail they can try again and I want that opportunity for Bahamians.”

Ayton will also partner with the organization on initiatives throughout the fall, supporting students, schools, and teachers across the Bahamas.

“I’m excited to be home and supporting Junior Achievements Bahamas,” said Ayton. “I know the spirit and ability of our community and how great opportunities are created through access to educational and fundamental resources. I was a fortunate recipient of that access, and I’m thankful to be able to give back and make an impact.”

Ayton’s previous philanthropic efforts in The Bahamas also included a $10,000 donation to the Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development and fundraisers for Hurricane Dorian recovery efforts in Phoenix.

“I’m just happy to have this platform to give kids in The Bahamas as much opportunity to try as many things at home as possible. Let’s bring the resources to us rather than always seeking them overseas and helping them to reach their goals here. This is just the least I can do. I just want to let you know I truly appreciate each and every one of you for supporting me and showing love while I do my thing on the court,” he said, “I’m not only interested in the sporting category but helping kids to get their education. I don’t want people to feel like coming from The Bahamas you have to have some type of athleticism or physical gift to reach your goals and become a success in life. There are a lot of talented kids here, we just need the resources, like we are trying to work on right now, to really expand and develop what we have going on.”

Ayton’s contribution will fund various JA programs, including their Elementary Program, 4 Juniors Program, Aspire Program, Company Program, and Stem Summit. It will ensure over 100 kids can participate in Junior Achievements Bahamas by covering admission fees and providing hot meals. It will also assist JA with bringing in more volunteers.

As one of the Bahamian athletes to achieve athletic success on the international stage, the veteran NBA star said his philanthropy stems from a sense of national pride.

Every Bahamian vessel carries a certain pride with them, especially when they are not home, and that’s what I do. I carry a lot of pride with me, a chip on my shoulder because I’m not just representing myself, I’m representing you guys on and off the court,” he said, “That’s what I think of when it comes to motivation. It’s a lot but, if it was for me I would have kept being mediocre but it’s not for me so I’m going to keep being great.”

Ayton was drawn to the organization due to its extensive history and impact on the community. Since 1979, JA has served over 60,000 students in the Bahamas, including his older brother Andrew, a valued alumnus of JA. 

“I was in JA for three years in high school in both the Arawak Homes/Sunshine Insurance and Deloitte programs. It was only once a week, I wish it was more, but it was something I looked forward to every week,” Andrew said, “It allowed me to connect to other students at other schools, it was very business oriented, it was trying to teach you the ropes of being an entrepreneur. It was a wonderful experience for me, that’s why I encouraged him to become involved.”

Ayton will continue collaborating with JA Bahamas by funding school-based initiatives this fall to provide further access, programming, and essential items that best suit the needs of JA-associated schools, students, and staff. More details will be announced in the coming weeks.

“We’re grateful for Mr. Ayton’s investment in Junior Achievement towards our success in developing and achieving a high-quality economic, educational program for the future leaders of the Bahamas,” said Tammy Lecky, Executive Director, Junior Achievement Bahamas. “His contribution directly supports our mission to promote economic literacy and understanding of business and competitive free enterprise among young Bahamians.”