Memphis Grizzlies point guard and soon-to-be Ohio State Hall of Famer Mike Conley knows as a professional athlete, he has a voice.
He’s never been shy about using it, either.
That’s why when Conley was approached by Be The Match — the world’s largest and most diverse donor registry which connects patients with a donor match — about an opportunity to form a partnership, the former Buckeyes’ great saw it as an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.
“Bone marrow is a way of donating and it can help save lives and people just don’t really know or aren’t aware,” Conley said. “That’s what we’re trying to get people to realize.”
For Conley, the decision to get involved was easy.
Be The Match has over 16 million registered members. However, only 5 percent of those identify as African American. Conley wanted to help raise awareness, so he partnered with Be The Match to spearhead its Heritage Holds The Cure campaign.
Conley has two cousins who have sickle cell disease — an inherited group of red blood cell disorders — so he wanted to try and do anything he could to get involved and help not only his family but others affected as well.
“Because I’m in this position, I need to help. I feel better knowing that I did something for somebody else instead of just worrying about what I’ve got going on. I really do want to see a better world and having this opportunity helps.”– Former Ohio State PG Mike Conley
“It does specifically hit closer to home because I’ve seen it,” Conley said. “Not understanding as much about it when I was younger really hurts me a lot. As a kid, all you worried about was playing outside and doing different things and you’re wondering why your cousins aren’t doing the same things or why they have to be inside or at the hospital, whatever it may be."
“You take it for granted and that’s something I wanted to try and make up and do whatever I can to see that I raise awareness for this disease and hopefully one day find a cure that helps everyone.”
That’s the ultimate goal, of course: to find a cure.
But Conley compared it to a team chasing a championship. The end result is the title — in this case, finding a cure would be just that — but throughout the journey, there are different things he hopes to achieve.
“Along the way, you want to accomplish little things and that’s what I’m here to do right now,” Conley said. “Just raise awareness and up the number of people who donate, the number of people who really take action. If I can do that, then I’m taking one step closer to that ultimate goal of finding a cure.”
Conley said he still considers Columbus his home and spends every offseason here. He’s still around the Ohio State program — the weight room facility at Value City Arena is named after him — and of course, he was just recently announced as a member of Ohio State’s 2017 Hall of Fame class.
However, during the season he spends much of his time in Memphis and he does plenty of work around that community, as well. Conley said he’s done a lot of work with Habitat for Humanity, he participates in youth mentoring programs and he also holds a bowling bash each year to help raise money for sickle cell research.
Conley tries to do as much as he can with the platform he has.
“I think a lot of guys look at it like they become famous and get a lot of attention and they just want to worry about themselves and live a happy life. That’s not what it’s about,” Conley said. “I feel like we’re put in positions for a reason and I feel like my reason is to use it to help others, use it to make a better place for people, better lives, better livelihood and wellness. That’s what I try to do and I hope that more athletes continue to realize the power they have, the influence they have on society.”
The Heritage Holds The Cure campaign and partnership with Be The Match is just another example of Conley doing just that. And because it hits so close to home for Conley, the former Ohio State great couldn’t wait to get involved.
“I think I learned early on, this life, is bigger than just me and what’s going on only in my circle,” Conley said. “Because I learned that and because of the connection with my cousins and what they go through and the connection with sickle cell, I wanted to put myself — it’s not a burden. It’s not an overwhelming responsibility. It’s necessary.”
“Because I’m in this position, I need to help. I feel better knowing that I did something for somebody else instead of just worrying about what I’ve got going on. I really do want to see a better world and having this opportunity helps.”
For additional information on bone marrow donation and Conley's campaign and partnership with Be The Match, please visit heritageholdsthecure.org.