A day ahead of the 66th NBA All-Star Game on Sunday (Feb. 19), at New Orleans’ Smoothie King Center, Los Angeles Clippers star Chris Paul, Louisiana-bred musician Jon Batiste, and hip-hop star DJ Khaled unveiled a new computer lab at the Dryades YMCA. Grade-schoolers tackled several computer-based activities like typing up their first encounter with CP3 and also participated in special drills in the gym with the event’s special guests.
The project serves as the latest endeavor to empower youth and encourage hands-on community service for NBA Cares and State Farm’s Assist Tracker program. The two organizations have been donating $5 for every assist on the court throughout the season. For the big game, the partners donated $1,800 per assist to signify the 18,000 State Farm agents putting in work across the country.
Billboard sat down with the point guard and the Late Show with Stephen Colbert bandleader (who also sung the National Anthem at the All-Star game) following the event to discuss the most rewarding aspect of giving back to their respective communities, New Orleans’ vibrant energy and their personal motivational anthems.
— LA Clippers (@LAClippers) February 18, 2017
What was the most rewarding experience of the NBA Cares and State Farm event?
Jon Batiste: Today, the most rewarding experience for me was being back in my hometown, having the honor last time — in 2008, I played the halftime show here [in Louisiana] at 18 years old to now participating in the community but also getting with Chris…
Chris Paul: Wow.  was my first All-Star game.
Batiste: Dig that.
Paul: That’s why it was so crazy in 2008. For draft day ’05/’06 and ’06/’07 — those two years, we played in Oklahoma because of the storm [Hurricane Katrina] so our first year back to [Louisiana] was ’08. Me and David West played in the All-Star game here and we were No. 1 in the West. Byron Scott was the coach. I didn’t know you played halftime.
Batiste: We just put that together.
CP, what was the most rewarding part for you?
Paul: Just seeing and talking to the people that make this city what it is. It’s not a Po’ Boy [sandwich] or beignets, it’s not all the gumbo or good food and stuff like that — that’s part of the culture but the people are what make New Orleans what it is. It’s the genuine loving and caring that people have like you don’t meet a stranger. When somebody asks you how you doing, they really mean it. There’s some cities you can go to where you can walk past people and not even exist. If you hungry and walking down the street here, somebody will be like, “You want somethin’ to eat, baby?” and it’s genuine. You don’t find that everywhere and it’s what makes the city what it is.
Recall the first time you were both inspired to give back to your communities.
Batiste: I grew up around people who gave back through education. One of my greatest mentors, the late Alvin Batiste, was a family member of mine and great educator for the last 40 years of musicians out of New Orleans. He would go to schools everywhere he went on the road. He was in his 70s, touring in Brazil, being overseas and find a place to go, a school to visit for free. Through music education, I found there was a way for me to give back. I don’t have to bring much — all I have to do is bring my instrument.
And then moving to New York — New York is such a global city, culture everywhere in the world is compressed together so there’s a lot of opportunities to collaborate across different styles of music, across different forms of media, different disciplines. Like Chris [Paul], he’s an athlete and I’m a musician but together, we can give back. And that’s the beautiful thing about developing a craft or skill. You don’t have to have a whole lot of money to give back. I’m inspired by people who not just give money but give their time.
Paul: Growing up in the church and around my family, it was always about service. It was always about giving back and my late grandfather had the first African American-owned gas station in North Carolina, so that’s where I worked every summer. I was always at the gas station working and got a chance to see my parents if they were at a soup kitchen or different things like that and so then when I got into the NBA, I finally felt like I was in a position to give back and help others.
The biggest thing I’ve learned throughout the entire time is the thing that Jon said at the end — everyone always thinks it’s about the money, which it definitely takes dollars to impact certain areas but the thing that these kids wants more than any dollar bill — because these kids don’t know how much it costs to do this learning center — is the time. The most valuable thing that any of us have is time ’cause it’s easy to write a check but when these kids see you come in and giving yourself and your time, I think that’s the most valuable thing that you can do.
What is your current motivational anthem?
Batiste: I’m always listening to “We Shall Overcome.” That’s actually one of my favorite songs. It can apply to a spiritual journey, the Civil Rights movement, any personal struggle that you may be having — you may be trying to go to the gym more, anything. It’s just such a deep, deep song that I oftentimes think about it even when I’m not actively listening to it. That’s a song that I carry.
Paul: I can’t ever put my phone on shuffle ’cause you gon’ hear a bunch of Kirk Franklin, then 2 Chainz, then it might go to Yolanda Adams, to Donnie McClurkin. I listen to a lot of gospel music, so I like Chance The Rapper, which is crazy ’cause I had a chance to meet him and his father last summer. The way he puts hip-hop together with gospel music is right up my alley. “How Great” [is my favorite right now], which is a gospel song but it’s a different twist on it. I been in church all day everyday since I was a kid so I let my dad hear some of that. To see his performance at the  Grammys, I kept rewinding it ’cause I been listening to Kirk Franklin since I was a kid. Tamela Mann sang, too.
DJ Khaled is performing at the State Farm Neighborhood Sessions concert and also joined the both of you at today’s event (Feb 18). What is a major key you’ve learned from him?
Paul: Khaled is such a people person. We were all on the court and he just walked over to the crowd with the kids. That’s genuine. That’s not scripted, that’s not somebody telling you to do something — that’s just his energy. His energy is crazy.
Batiste: His energy is dope. I feel like he’s one of those people who kind of have tunnel vision focus that you can see even when we were shooting around. He would focus on it like this is the only thing that matters in the world right now. Any shot, he was pushing himself.
Paul: That’s why people don’t realize, too, why we can come together and do stuff like that because even though it’s two totally different elements whether it’s sports or entertainment, there’s a common interest where there’s a focus, a competitiveness and a will to want to be great at something.