August 4, 2017

Kevin Durant uses hoops to help build healthy communities

Three inspiring stories of innovation and ingenuity across America

NBA star Kevin Durant poses with students during the Build It and They Will Ball court ceremony on July 24 in New York City. Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Kevin Durant Charity Foundation

Championing community: Coming off of a championship season with the Golden State Warriors, NBA star Kevin Durant turned some of his focus this summer to his foundation. With partner Nike, Durant last week unveiled the latest project in his Build It and They Will Ball initiative, which renovates, and in some cases completely rebuilds, basketball courts in underserved communities. The 28-year-old forward inaugurated a newly refurbished court in the Lower East Side neighborhood of New York. “When I was young, playing basketball was one of the things that kept me out of trouble and kept me focused on my growth and maturity,” Durant wrote on his website. “For that reason, I’ve always wanted to play a leadership role in communities and neighborhoods–like the one I grew up in–and give kids a chance to choose health, teamwork, and basketball over some of the other negative influences they may face.” To date, Durant’s charity has refurbished basketball courts in eight cities around the world, from Seattle to Berlin.

Building health and wealth in Detroit: Raphael Wright is a born entrepreneur. At the age of 13, he opened an eBay store to sell his own clothing, and since then, he’s published a book about “hustling” and entrepreneurship. So when, at the age of 19, Wright learned he had diabetes and had to dramatically adjust his diet, he wanted to apply his skills to the problem. “I was young but I knew I wasn’t the only one in my community that needed to be empowered around food as it relates to health in the black community,” Wright told the Business@American blog. “So I vowed to do something about it.” On March 13, he launched a GoFundMe for a black-owned grocery store—and eventually a franchise of stores—in Detroit. So far, Wright has raised more than $30,000, roughly a third of his goal. The problem Wright is tackling is a big one. According to a 2014 report commissioned by the Detroit Food & Fitness Collaborative, Detroit’s residents spend $467 million a year at grocery stores—but roughly $178 million “leaks” out of Detroit, meaning there’s “an excess of demand that the local market can’t satisfy.” And although the relationship isn’t linear, a recent study found that “neighborhoods [in Detroit] with the lowest percentage of blacks tend to have a more favorable ratio of people to food sources compared to neighborhoods with a higher percentage of black residents.” Ultimately, Wright sees this as an opportunity to invest in the local community and develop black-owned wealth in the neighborhood. “We want to invest in our community, to have a place where we can have conversations with our local politicians and that can be a cultural center,” Wright told Next City. “I want my grocery store to be that beacon.”

Investing in Charm City: Graduates of a Baltimore small business program received recognition and a little advice from two seasoned professionals this week. Billionaires Warren Buffett and Michael Bloomberg awarded diplomas to 59 area entrepreneurs, graduates of the inaugural class of the 10,000 Small Businesses program. “Every day, all of you are helping build a strong future for your country, for your city, for the state and the world,” Bloomberg told the graduates at the ceremony in a local theater. The 10,000 Small Businesses program is a partnership between Goldman Sachs and Bloomberg Philanthropies, which was founded by its namesake, the former mayor of New York. It is investing $10 million in the city to help local entrepreneurs create jobs and economic opportunity. In total, the nationwide program will invest $500 million in dozens of cities across the country, offering small business owners access to education, financial capital, and business support services. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis.

Margaret Myers and Mikhail Klimentov

Margaret Myers is the editor of The Renewal Project. Mikhail Klimentov is a contributor.