MJ, Kobe, and Shaq: McDonald's All-American Games legacy started with Chicago trailblazer

"Any way you can lift up someone, bring attention to someone, it’s going to open up other doors, opportunities for them. McDonald’s was very much into that," according to Brandon Beavers, CEO of Beavers Holdings.

That’s what McDonald’s All-American Games has been doing since 1977, thanks in part to a Chicago man who knew from the start just how much we would be loving it decades later.

In a FOX 32 special report, Tina Nguyen took a look back at how this prestigious sporting event tipped off.

McDonald’s All-American Games has been serving up basketball superstars since the 1970s.

"Shaq, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, the likes - all of them at one point were McDonald’s All-Americans," Brandon said.

If it wasn’t for Brandon Beavers’ father, Bob, what's now often called "the pinnacle of high school basketball" might not have been what it is today.

"The thing that makes the story so fun is he literally started off making less than a dollar an hour and because of a mentor that showed him the light if you will, he got really excited about McDonald’s," Brandon said.

As a young man, Bob Beavers worked behind the counter at McDonald’s. He eventually worked his way up to become the company's first Black executive as the regional vice president in Baltimore.

That’s where Bob Beavers met Bob Geoghan. Geoghan was looking to highlight a Washington, D.C. high school basketball tournament called The Capitol Classic.

"He [Geoghan] had a contact at McMarketing, Sandy Silver, who knew my father real well and knew that he was into sports. Particularly high school sports and anything that could help kids," Brandon said.

Brandon said his dad knew this tournament would be something big.

"This was to bring together the country’s best high school basketball players. To showcase their talents in front of the whole country," Brandon said.

Bob saw the potential of what a partnership with McDonald's could do to for the games. From there, a lot of fast breaking action followed.

"It’s automatically the who’s who basically. Who are the top 15 players in the country, roughly," Brandon said.

Brandon said it also helped future NBA stars get ready for the big time.

"The other thing it did was put these kids in a position where they are now truly getting this exposure and they’re getting interviewed," he said.

But the players aren’t the only ones who benefit from this event.

"I think it was a great opportunity to give back to the community and also it helped fund the Ronald McDonald’s children’s charities," said Josephine Beavers, chairwoman of Beavers Holdings.

Today, the All-American Games continues to soar to new heights with female athletes also hitting the hardwood, including the likes of Candace Parker.

The Beavers family moved to the Chicago area 43 years ago to help the company with another "first."

"McDonald’s is one of the first companies - first major companies - that had what we now call a DEI," Josephine said.

Bob Beavers’ wife, Josephine said then-McDonald’s CEO Fred Turner asked Beavers to come to Chicago to setup the company's diversity, equity and inclusion program.

When Bob passed away in 2015, he had retired from the golden arches but was still working with the company. He was one of their suppliers for straws and napkins.

His family now runs that business. They said he would still be looking forward to the seeing the All-American Games every year.

"He would be so excited. And we’d be going to a lot more games because we’d have a lot more time," Josephine said.

To enjoy a lasting legacy for both basketball fans and his family.

"When I see that picture it brings me back to 45 years ago," Brandon said.

This year’s McDonald's All-American Games will take place in April in Houston.