By Randy Renner
Thunder superstar Kevin Durant walked out onto a new basketball court that bears his name to the wild cheers of more than a hundred young students at Oklahoma City's North Highland Elementary School Monday morning.
Durant, his foundation and Nike built an outdoor basketball court at the school to give kids another safe place to play the game Durant loves so much.
"I just wanted to teach these kids how I was brought up and the values I learned from being outdoors," Durant said.
When KD was growing up in the suburbs of Washington, DC, there were several outdoor basketball courts. It was a poor area, so the courts weren't always in the best shape but, kids would gather and hoop it up anyway just happy to be outside.
"That's where we all went. We didn't always have access to a gym," he recalled. "Some days we didn't even play basketball we just sat around and talked to each other."
In those days, technology wasn't quite where it is today, and most kids in Durant's neighborhood might not have been able to afford the latest video game anyway, so they always played outside.
"I think we're starting to shy away from that now."
The statistics support Durant’s concerns about the growing lack of youth involvement in outdoor activities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), obesity affects about 12.7 million children under the age of 19. The rates tend to be especially higher in low-income households.
“Living an active lifestyle, I think that’s something as a community, we’ve gotten away from,” Durant said. “Just having this opportunity to refurbish an outdoor court means a lot to me. I think something like this, even though it’s on a small scale, it can help for years and years to come.”
Anita Jones, the principal at North Highland Elementary agrees.
“I think it is very important,” Jones said. “We live in a society now where a lot of students suffer from obesity and juvenile diabetes because they don’t have those interactive skills. They are not active. They are couch potatoes. So this is a way for them to come out, get involved and be active and just have fun and be kids again.”
The court at North Highland is the first Durant and his team have built in North America but it won't be the last. He hopes to add more courts here in the Oklahoma City area and probably in his old neighborhood back home near D.C.
“Kevin said this community is a lot like the community he grew up in,” Jones said. “A lot of single parents, high poverty area. And he wanted to give back and he wanted the kids to know that he cares. It’s so important when you have celebrities and you have those people that are there that will reach back and try to pull somebody else up.”