His life as a professional athlete has led Mike Conley to live in nearly a half-dozen cities at one point or another.


There’s no doubt which one he calls home, though, and he emphasized the point during a Zoom video conference on Wednesday.


The NBA veteran and Ohio State product was addressing a decision to donate $200,000 to six organizations in five cities when he was asked where he was staying during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Conley smiled and raised his black T-shirt into view of the camera so the scarlet letters spelling out "OH-IO" could be seen. As he awaits the possible resumption of the NBA season and a return to the Utah Jazz, Conley is at his home in Columbus while also finding ways to assist the communities in Salt Lake City, Memphis, Indianapolis and West Helena, Arkansas.


All of them are special places in his life, but Columbus is different.


"Ohio State is where I met my wife, and her whole family live in Dayton, Ohio, and a bunch of them live in Columbus," Conley said. "I love Columbus. She loves it. It’s a great community."


In Columbus, Conley is donating to the Community Shelter Board to provide masks for every staff member and client in the homeless system.


He is also donating to assist the Columbus Urban League, an organization he has grown more familiar with in recent years through his father, Mike Conley Sr. His donation will help the league with basic food needs for nearly 350 families.


"I’m just really trying to spread it out, and Columbus Urban League was one of those organizations that opened the door to me and allowed me to help in different ways and give ideas on what I thought could help some people," Conley said. "It’s a broad spectrum of things I’m trying to get done, but I really am trying to be a helping hand at a time these people can’t help themselves in certain situations."


Conley said he’s been looking for different ways to get involved since the pandemic started but didn’t want to make any knee-jerk decisions on where to help. It was a thoughtful approach he credited his parents for, thinking back to the first time he could recall being part of a charitable event as a child.


He was roughly 5 years old, and he got to meet Michael Jordan at a golf event. He still has a copy of the photo, but it wasn’t long before Conley realized there was more to being charitable than meeting celebrities.


"As I grew up, my parents kept reiterating the importance of our communities and our young kids and their development," he said. "It’s vital that we who have a platform and a stage like we do, to utilize it the best way that we can. Who knows how long my voice can mean something?"


The Jazz remains in fourth place in the Western Conference in Conley’s first season with the team after 12 years with the Memphis Grizzlies, who selected him with the fourth pick in the 2007 NBA draft after his lone season with Ohio State.


"I’ve been working as if we’re coming back," he said of the NBA’s current season. "If anything, I’d like to know a direction, to know whether to keep putting the foot on the pedal or back off a little bit and rest easier if we’re not playing until the following season.


"It’s going to be a wait-and-see game, and I’ll be ready one way or another."


ajardy@dispatch.com


@AdamJardy