The Dallas Examiner
Kenyon Martin, NBA veteran of the Denver Nuggets, New Jersey Nets and L.A. Clippers, among other teams, returned home recently to Oak Cliff to mentor young athletes during summer basketball camp at the Becky Saner Recreation Center.
“Right hand up; left hand up. I don’t think everybody’s paying attention,” coach Martin teased during his youth basketball camp practice. “Everybody got it?”
About 100 boys and girls, who ranged in grade levels from elementary school to high school, shouted in the affirmative, July 28.
“All right,” the coach hollered back with equal enthusiasm as he lined up his team to run practice drills.
Martin’s return held a dual purpose. On July 30, he served as captain for team Trilogy at the American Airlines Center during the BIG3, a professional three-on-three basketball tournament.
“It’s been a great turnout so far through five weeks,” he commented on the tour. “It’s been a breeze. Fans are getting more involved, but we’re coming to Dallas to give these folks a show, as we have in Chicago, Charlotte, Tulsa, Brooklyn. They deserve that same kind of effort and same kind of show – that’s what we’re here to do.”
That represented Martin’s outlook on the business of sports, the flash and the spectacle. On the topic of his free camp, which he founded in 2008, he was far more personal.
“Seems the kids get in trouble more during the summertime. There’s a lot of idle time,” he said as he explained his involvement in mitigating that vacuum. “It’s an opportunity for me. I don’t have much going on during the summer. It’s all about them.”
The former NBA player remarked that experienced adults mentoring children was an important, positive contribution to any community. He wanted to make sure he was doing his part.
“It’s all about them,” he repeated. “Keeping them occupied and letting them know that people care, and it’s an opportunity that I didn’t have as a kid. For me to be able to come back to Dallas and my neighborhood, Oak Cliff, to do something like this regularly, it ain’t for me; it’s for them.”
The Bryan Adams High School graduate spoke a bit about his own school days and some of factors that took him to the level of success he currently holds.
“My mom; family; [being] scared to get in big trouble,” all facets that Martin admitted helped him become the individual he has grown up to be.
“Just having a solid foundation and having people around that you know care, and you having sense enough to know what’s right and what’s wrong. I think I did as a kid, knowing what’s right and what’s wrong. A little mischievous, got into a little trouble but not the big stuff,” he said.
He added that there was a lack of professional mentors while he was growing up, and he didn’t meet an NBA player until he was in high school.
“So for these kids – 7, 8, 9 years old – for you to come back and them to see that, it’s magical,” he said.
He noted the key to his camp was not so much about the job of being an athlete but rather the concern he showed the children coming up now in his old neighborhood.
“I made it in basketball, but it [doesn’t] necessarily have to be basketball, but you can make it out of whatever situation that you’re in.”
What the NBA alum had to deal with as a child was a situation that many in the area potentially continue to cope with.
“Some of these kids grew up just like I did,” he opened up. “Single mother household and no kids around with fathers. All of that’s going on, man. So just for me to let them know that I made it out of this, that you can as well. No mater what it is – go a long way from it.”
Martin concluded that stardom had nothing to do with giving back, nor his wide range of philanthropic causes, such as Hard At Work Kids, SafeHaven of Tarrant County, American Institute for Stuttering, The Salvation Army and others.
“I don’t do it for photo ops. I honestly don’t,” he said. “I’ve done a lot. I’ve been places where no cameras have been there and nobody knows I do stuff. I do it for the enjoyment that these kids are going to get out of it, and what it does to my soul, knowing that I’m doing something positive.”
Martin emphasized that there is still a need for leadership and local mentorship.
“More people need to do this,” he said. “Not just basketball players … lawyers, doctors, different things you can get into the community and do. Let kids know that there are other things other than being a musician or athlete. Anybody can be a role model.”
He revealed that a camp he held two years previously involved math and science as well as instruction on yoga and nutrition.
“This message is the message that I try to give: that you can have fun, you can be who you are without getting in trouble. You can be boisterous. You can be strong-minded, and be all of that, but still do good,” he affirmed.
“Bad news sells, but I just try to be a positive story all the time.”