Kevin Durant has probably dedicated over 40,000 hours of his life to basketball. He has shown up to practice and play when he didn’t want to, with coaches he didn’t like, sometimes with injuries and illnesses. His body has endured a beating that will most likely have long-term effects. He was 2008’s Rookie of the Year; has won 4 NBA scoring titles; was the MVP of the NBA in 2014, and in 2016-17 lead his team to the NBA championship while winning the MVP of the NBA Finals. He has earned his money and has the right to spend it as he pleases and to give it to whom he pleases. That said, though I am a fan, I am sperturbed about his recent 3 million-dollar donation to the University of Texas.
This is a young man who was raised by his mother and grandmother (because his father deserted the family) in Suitland, Maryland, which is approximately 90% Black. He thanked his mother in his moving MVP speech for guiding the family though poverty.
In summary, this is a Black man, who was raised in poverty by a young single Black mother in a community that is almost 90% Black. And after all of that he thought the best charitable use of his money; was to give to a school that is the 3rd richest school in the world? The University of Texas system [has an endowment / is] valued at over $24 billion. A large part of this wealth has come from individual donors such as the Moody Foundation, Hearst Corporation, and Mulva Family Foundation.
This is a school at which only 3.9% of the student population is Black; and a good number of those students play sports for the school. It is also a school that has struggled to be an inclusive, accepting environment. It was just in May of last year that the President of the school had to address racist flyers being posted throughout the campus. The flyers depicted a racist caricature of a black man holding a knife and bore the words “Around blacks … never relax.”
Similarly, a white nationalist group targeted the University of Texas at San Antonio last week by draping a white banner reading “America is our Birthright” over a pedestrian footbridge on the school’s main campus. I would guess that Durant faced some sort of racism while at the school, being called names on campus or in visiting arenas. Yet, he still chose to give his money to a school that is already rich and overwhelmingly White.
I just don’t understand why; and his statement does nothing to clarify things for me.
“My time as a Longhorn helped build the foundation for who I am today as a player and a person, and the UT team will always be my family,” Durant said in a statement. “It’s important to me to continue to give back to The University and ensure that future student-athletes have all the opportunities they need to succeed. It’s an honor to have such a close and unique relationship with Texas Basketball, and I’m grateful to be able to contribute.”
But be clear that his “time as a Longhorn” was all too brief – and more form than substance. He was a “one and done” which means that he attended the University of Texas for less than one year. He probably spent fewer than 200 days of his life on that campus—200 days. How much of an impact could they possibly have had on him? How did they help him really? It’s seems as if Durant helped the school more than it helped him. As a student athlete, even in his one year, he helped generate millions in TV revenues and ticket sales. Now, the University of Texas has gotten money from him twice.
And what has the University of Texas done for Black people, the Black community, single mothers like Kevin’s, or helping the poor? Would the school have helped, or provided a free education for Kevin, had he just been a smart, poor Black kid; or was his value appreciated because he played basketball? Would Durant be a valued member of the University of Texas community were he not a very wealthy, professional basketball player? If something happens and he falls out of grace, loses his contract, or gets into legal trouble, who do you think will show up for him: the University of Texas community? It’s doubtful (ask O.J., ask Rae Carruth, ask Nate Newton).
I believe that Black folks have blindly allowed society to define what success is, and what it is supposed to look like. Durant saw the important people who had given to the University of Texas: the Mulvas and the Hearsts. He saw this as the definition of success — giving large sums of money to your alma mater — and almost did it reflexively despite the lack of connection to him or relevance to his community. In many respects its no different than people who buy a Gucci belt or Prada purse — whether they love the style or not — because that is a societal signifier of success. Or perhaps he Durant became so habituated to the “atta boys” –the acceptance and praise–received from coaches, patrons, boosters; that he sought more. In most instances, people give to the causes closest to them (Cancer Society if you’ve had a loved one pass from cancer; Meals on Wheels if you have ever struggled with hunger) and I find it unlikely that his 200 days at the University of Texas were more impactful than the 6,000+ days that proceeded them. Durant is not the first player to do this: Draymond Green donated 3.1 Million to Michigan State athletics — and he likely won’t be the last.We, as a people, must pause and consider the psychology behind our spending and giving.
How do we, as Black people, create a cycle of success if our most able, won’t give to our most needy or even to the causes to which they should most relate? How many Black students will benefit from that money he gave? $2.5 million is earmarked solely for the UT Basketball Program (which is already well-funded). What if he had given that money to an institution that specifically aided Black mothers, single mothers, women and children living in poverty? What if he had given that money to benefit little Black boys — little Black boys who most of the world will ignore–unless, of course, they are exceptional at basketball.