At 6’2” and 190 pounds, Miami Heat point guard Mario Chalmers isn’t the biggest player on the court. But the 27-year-old Alaska native might just have the biggest heart — as well as a great set of legs.
“I strive to empower, inspire and enable youth to live healthy lifestyles, put education first and give back to their communities,” said Chalmers, who is playing an increasingly active role in South Florida’s charitable circles through his personal charity, the Mario V. Chalmers Foundation. “I want to encourage our young people to stay positive and that we must persevere in times of adversity.”
Basketball Roots in Alaska
Chalmers is a soft-spoken leader with a humble personality who learned how to dribble, shoot and score at an early age. Born May 19, 1986, in Anchorage, Ala., to Ronnie and Almarie Chalmers, he has an older sister Roneka, who now lives in Charlotte.
Growing up in Alaska, Chalmers started playing basketball in local YMCA and youth leagues before making the varsity team at Bartlett High School in Anchorage. He led Bartlett to two state championships in 2002 and 2003, and a second-place finish in 2004, and was named 4A State Player of the Year three times in a row. Mario was inducted into the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame in March 2014. As he told The Miami Herald last year, “A lot of people think there’s nothing in Alaska but snow and I just want to disprove that.”
Basketball definitely runs in the family, as Chalmers has two cousins who played in the National Basketball Association — Lionel Chalmers, a former guard for the Los Angeles Clippers, and Chris Smith, who played guard for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
When the Miami Heat defeated the Oklahoma Thunder in the 2012 NBA finals, followed by their victory over the San Antonio Spurs in 2013, Chalmers became Alaska’s first player to earn an NBA championship ring. And if that wasn’t enough, People magazine named Chalmers one of the Sexiest Men Alive in 2013.
Recognizing the importance of the Heat’s No. 15 on and off the court, brands like Spalding, Sprint and New Era have endorsed Chalmers, who is well-followed in social media, reaching more than 1.8 million Chalmers fans on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Chalmers is also a proud father of his children.
When not playing hoops, Chalmers enjoys cooking and is known for his spicy Cajun dishes. With family friend Tayon, Chalmers started experimenting with jambalaya recipes in the family kitchen when he was just 12 years old, and today has honed his skills as a chef.
A Leader on the Court
As the Miami Heat head into the 2014 playoffs, Chalmers plays a pivotal role in driving the team’s “big three” offense built around NBA All-Stars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. “I’m a combo guard that can do everything,” said Chalmers after a recent Heat victory over the Orlando Magic. Known for his unselfish play, Chalmers can feed the ball to his fellow Heat stars or drill a series of three-point shots from beyond the arc.
“Guys like Dwyane Wade and LeBron James handle the ball a lot so you got to be ready to shoot,” Chalmers said in a recent interview. “When your number’s called to run a play, you have to be able to run it. My coaches and teammates have confidence in me to do that.”
In the pivotal Game 4 of the 2012 NBA finals, Chalmers scored 25 points against Oklahoma City, and his 20 points in Game 6 against the San Antonio Spurs were essential in keeping the Heat within striking distance until James led a fourth quarter comeback and overtime win, highlighted by Ray Allen’s dramatic three-pointer that tied the game with 5.2 seconds left.
On Jan. 13, 2013, Chalmers had a very special night against the Sacramento Kings, hitting 10 of 13 three-point attempts setting a career high with 32 points and tying a franchise record set by Brian Shaw in 1993. “It was awesome,” James said after Chalmers’ last basket. “We are teammates. Anytime we have a guy that can go off like that it’s great. He had it going, and we just tried to continue to find him, and he kept on knocking them down.”
In the 2013-2014 Heat season, Chalmers continues to be a steady and reliable leader on the court. His three-point shooting remains a strong focus, and he has a career-high average in foul shots from the free throw line.
Chalmers was “knocking down” long-distance shots long before he joined the Heat. He played for three years at the University of Kansas, where he helped the Jayhawks win a national championship in 2008 by hitting his most famous “miracle shot” — a three-pointer against Memphis with just 2.1 seconds left in regulation, sending the game into overtime with a Kansas victory.
In his freshman year at Kansas, he set a Big 12 record with 89 steals in a season, and was named National Freshman of the Week twice. As a sophomore, he averaged 12.3 points per game, and was named Co-Defensive Player of the Year. The next year, Chalmers increased his scoring, averaging 12.8 points per game and leading the team in assists and steals, and was named to the Big 12 All-Defensive First Team and All Big 12 Second Team. Chalmers was named Most Outstanding Player of the 2008 NCAA Championship, the culmination of his collegiate career.
In 2008, the Minnesota Timberwolves selected Chalmers 34th overall in the NBA draft, but he was traded to the Heat that same night. Wearing No. 6 — instead of his No. 15 at Kansas — Chalmers started all 82 games for the Heat in his rookie season, setting a Heat record with nine steals in his fourth NBA game. In 2009, he was named to the NBA All-Rookie Second Team. On July 8, 2010, when James announced he would be leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers to join the Heat, Chalmers returned to wearing his No. 15 uniform.
And in the Community
After Chalmers was chosen in the NBA draft six years ago, a sportscaster asked how often he had watched his overtime-forcing shot against Memphis. “About a million times,” Chalmers responded. With that accomplishment in mind, Chalmers began hosting an annual Miracle Shot Basketball Camp for youngsters age six to 12 in Kansas. This summer, those fortunate players will learn about teamwork — as well as basketball fundamentals — from No. 15 on July 28 through 31. Chalmers understands the importance of getting boys involved in sports at an early age, as he did. Last year, he also established Team Rio National for seventh graders, which is now one of the nation’s top-ranked traveling youth teams.
But that’s just the start of Chalmers’ charitable efforts. To raise funds for the foundation’s youth basketball and breast cancer awareness and support programs, Chalmers hosts a series of fundraisers throughout the year through golf tournaments, social mixers, holiday events, and live and silent auctions. In South Florida, he hosted his first annual Red Hot Winter Wonderland holiday fundraising event last December at the Surfcomber on Miami Beach, where he was joined by teammates James and Wade.
Reflecting on his experiences on and off the court, Chalmers said, “Giving back to others has always been an important part of my life. I want kids to know that they can do anything they put their minds to, have big dreams and should always strive to do their best.”