With a young girl in his arms and a smile on his face, Toronto Raptors' forward Amir Johnson walked through the SOS Children's Village in Johannesburg, South Africa as an ambassador for Basketball Without Borders.
He played games, kicked a soccer ball around and truly embraced the experience of being around the children of the area.
It was just one of many enthralling pieces of footage that Raptor fans wouldn't normally be able to see were it not for the team at Open Gym, a 26-episode series entering its third season.
The season premiere aired on Dec. 2 at 1 p.m ET on TSN4. Viewers will be able to catch a replay on Wednesday at 7 p.m ET (TSN4) and Thursday at 7 p.m ET on NBATV Canada. Episodes will then be uploaded to YouTube on Fridays at 11 a.m ET.
An extended version will be released a day prior to the Tuesday broadcast on the Bell TV App. Bell Local/TV App users can also check out a special After Show where a basketball panel will provide their analysis on each episode.
A majority of the hour-long opener focused on Masai Ujiri and his work in Africa with BOB.
First #OpenGym episode was phenomenal. Love how Masai and some of the Raptors are helping basketball grow in places like Africa— Matt Cooper (@Cooperfect) December 3, 2014
We all know Ujiri as the swaggy general manager who stuck a knife in the heart of the Andrea Bargnani era, but in Open Gym, we saw a generosity and gentle spirit that could win over Ebenezer Scrooge.
The clip of Ujiri trying to adjust the t-shirt on a little girl who struggled to put it on properly was beyond adorable.
"Africa, we are happy!"
Hearing Kyle Lowry talk about Game 7 against the Brooklyn Nets possibly being his last game was disheartening. It brought back memories of Paul Pierce and lost opportunities. Would have been a shame to see this roster disband after such promise (SPOILER: Didn't happen.)
Johnson and DeMar DeRozan had no doubt in their minds that KLOE would choose to stay. Awesome hearing more of their thoughts on that whole process.
I can see why some people would enjoy the staff team building segment where members of the organization participated in a slew of activities. It just didn't do it for me. No major reason why. I just thought it was the low point during my watch.
One thing I would recommend the producers to look at is perhaps cutting back on the use of orchestral scores. It works for certain segments, but too much of anything can occasionally backfire.
Open Gym is still 1) really good; 2) too reliant on overly dramatic music.— Eric Koreen (@ekoreen) December 2, 2014
You don't need to be a die-hard fan of the Raptors to enjoy Open Gym. The season premiere offered up enough to get the juices flowing and this writer excited to see what's in store.
Cheers to Producers Jeff Landicho and Jeff Rocchi for a job well done.
Final Score: 8.5/10
+ Basketball Without Borders
+ Training camp/Alvin Williams
+ Amir Johnson
+ Kyle Lowry re-signing/interviews with teammates
- Overuse of orchestral music
- Staff team building portion was dull
What were your thoughts on the Season 3 premiere of Open Gym? Leave a comment below and let us know what you'd like to see from the series moving forward.