Mike Muscala, A Gentle Giant Promoting Peace through PeacePlayers

Written by Jimmy Greenfield

May 29, 2023



There are no gentle giants in the NBA, not when it’s standard most nights to bang up against forwards and centers hovering around 7 feet tall, some of whom are pushing close to 300 pounds.

Off the court, well, that’s a different story. Mike Muscala is clearly a giant, you don’t need binoculars to spot the 6-foot-11 frame that has helped him carve out a 10-year NBA career which has shown no signs of ending anytime soon.

But does he qualify as gentle? All it takes is one conversation with the soft-spoken 31-year-old to recognize this as an immutable fact.

"I've gone through a lot of changes with the game of basketball in my life. But ultimately, as I get older, the years and the games go on. Gratitude is definitely up on the list of how I feel about the game and just grateful to be able to keep playing and all the great things that come with it."

Mike Muscala

This desire to show gratitude for what the game of basketball has given him is what led Muscala to PeacePlayers, and it’s his gentle nature that had made his quiet contributions invisible to even his teammates. You don’t really get to count yourself as quiet when, on any given night, you’re on ESPN’s Sports Center going up against Nikola Jokic, Draymond Green or you’re trying to stop a LeBron James drive to the basket.

But Muscala doesn’t use social media and hasn’t shown an interest in pushing what’s important to him on other people, particularly fellow NBA players who are finding their own ways to donate their time and resources. The way he figures it, things that are important in life have a way of presenting themselves just as PeacePlayers first became known to him nearly a decade ago. Muscala was just starting out his NBA career with the Atlanta Hawks when a college friend introduced him to PeacePlayers co-founder Brendan Tuohey and he realized his personal worldview was aligned with that of PeacePlayers.

"I just started donating money then because I thought it was cool to give back to the game. I love how they use basketball for peace, but also there's so many other things you can learn from the game. I just felt like that really resonated with my life. I've been appreciative of the game and been able to be competitive yet appreciative of differences. Learning about other people and other cultures and stuff through the game is so cool. And that's PeacePlayers big thing. So I just kind of stayed in touch with them."

Mike Muscala

Muscala’s advocacy for PeacePlayers reached a new level when, after the 2019-20 season was initially shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he entered the NBA’s “Bubble” in Disney World and realized how appreciative he was to the NBA for creating a space to bring basketball back into his life and to the league’s fans. So without much fanfare, Muscala, who had joined the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2019, donated $100 for every three-pointer he and his teammates made for the rest of the season.

Connecting his commitment to PeacePlayers to team success seemed like a natural way to bring together two of his passions. That connection hasn’t diminished but this year Muscala switched things up a bit. Instead of three-pointers, his financial commitment is tied to offensive rebounds as that was a particular focus for the Thunder entering the season.

Muscala’s journey to his unlikely NBA career began when he entered Bucknell University as a freshman in 2009 and made an immediate impact on the Bison. By the time he completed his four years at Bucknell, Muscala had been a two-year team captain, an academic All-American, and finished as the school’s all-time leading scorer. Despite being considered one of the country’s best college big men, reaching the NBA was far from a sure thing. To this day, Muscala is still the only Bucknell player to ever make it to the NBA.

The Hawks made him a second-round pick but instead of joining them for the start of the season, he went to Spain to play professionally. He eventually returned to the States and made his NBA debut with the Hawks and finished out the season with them. 10 years and nearly 500 games later, Muscala is with his fourth NBA team and under contract through the 2023-24 season. This year has perhap been more difficult than most. Near the start of the season, Muscala’s mom, Mary, passed away.


“I know she’s still watching,” Muscala said. “It was kind of a tough time at the beginning of the season but still just been great for just for me to be able to have the game to focus on and it still feels like she’s watching.”

The next step for Muscala in his journey with PeacePlayers is to begin making on-site visits whether it’s in the United States or at one of the global locations. There were plans to visit Israel a few years ago for a PeacePlayers event but those plans fell through when they didn’t fit with his preparations for the NBA season. After his playing career is over, Muscala would like to get into coaching and he sees what PeacePlayers is doing as a valuable part of his education as a potential coach.

Of course, PeacePlayers can also learn a lot from one of its staunchest advocates, a gentle giant who understands as well as anybody that basketball can be used to bring people together and promote peace throughout the world.

"We've all got our own things we're dealing with. But when you're on the court it should be a place of fun. There's no doubt there's a high level of competitiveness in the NBA. I think when you have your heart open and you approach it from a sense of gratitude, you're able to compete even more. Just accept the win or loss, but put your best foot forward and try to be a role model for kids in terms of dealing with adversity. Especially when things maybe haven't gone how you planned. Be a good teammate, be humble in victory and don't get too high or too low. Just keep on trucking."

Mike Muscala

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