Kevin Durant opens a new basketball court at North Highland Elementary 

click to enlarge Kevin Durant talks with media during a Kevin Durant Charity Foundation unveiling of a basketball court at North Highland Elementary School in Oklahoma City, Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. - GARETT FISBECK
  • Garett Fisbeck
  • Kevin Durant talks with media during a Kevin Durant Charity Foundation unveiling of a basketball court at North Highland Elementary School in Oklahoma City, Monday, Oct. 5, 2015.

Kevin Durant remembered his own childhood in the Washington, D.C., suburbs during the dedication of a new outdoor basketball court at Oklahoma City’s North Highland Elementary School on Oct. 5.

“We didn’t always have access to a gym, and it was basketball courts on every corner for us as kids,” said the Thunder superstar as he stood on the first court in North America launched under the Kevin Durant Charity Foundation’s Build It And They Will Ball Courts Renovation Initiative, which seeks to increase the number of high-quality courts accessible to underprivileged youth in the United States and abroad. “That’s where we all went. Some days, we didn’t every play basketball. We just sat around and talked to each other.”

Students cheered and waved as Durant opened the festivities. Some held signs reading “thank you.” The court is a hub for neighborhood youth and means a lot to the community, said North Highland Elementary Principal Anita Jones.

“On the weekend, this is where the community is. They’re on the court,” Jones said. “They play until the sun goes down.”

As a child, playing outside helped mold Durant into who he is today, said the 2013-14 NBA Most Valuable Player.

“I think that’s something as a community we’ve gotten away from,” Durant said. “This is how I was brought up. This is how I played. This is how I learned to build relationships with people.”

Jones said many of today’s youth suffer from obesity and juvenile diabetes due to sedentary lifestyles.

“This is a way for them to come out, get involved, be active and just have fun and be kids again,” she said.

The Kevin Durant Charity Foundation partnered with Nike on the initiative. North Highland Elementary is its second project worldwide. A renovated court opened in Berlin, Germany, in September, and a third court is expected to open in Washington, D.C. The new court’s underlays include Nike Grind, a premium material made from recycled athletic shoes and manufacturing scrap that provides cushioning and durability.

Jones said she got a phone call last spring that an anonymous entity wanted to refurbish the court, which itself was donated several years ago.

“The old court is nice, but kind of sunken in the middle, so the water collects,” Jones said.

Then she got a call from Durant’s agency, Roc Nation, whose representatives visited and gave her the good news. The old court stands beside the new one and will be refurbished as well, with help from the Oklahoma City Thunder, Durant said.

Last year, Durant’s teammate Russell Westbrook opened a new reading room at the school.

North Highland was established in 1963, and its entire student population qualifies for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National School Lunch Program, which subsidizes meals for students from families at 185 percent of the poverty level or below, Jones said.

“(Durant) said this community is a lot like the community he grew up in — a lot of single parents, high-poverty area — and he wanted to give back. He wanted the kids to know that he cares, and I think that is so important,” she said. “My kids try so hard, and I want them to understand and know that their circumstances don’t determine how far they can go, and I think this court says the same thing to them.”

 

Print Headline; Kevin’s court, Thunder superstar Kevin Durant gives back and opens a new outdoor basketball court at Oklahoma City’s North Highland Elementary.

 

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