Jason Kidd Restores Oakland Rec Center

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Gabriel Thomas, 16, with NBA legend Jason Kidd and Project Coordinator Fred Moore of the City of Oakland at the ribbon-cutting remodel of the Willie Keyes Recreation Center in West Oakland. Photo by Carla Thomas.

About 80 youth had the rare opportunity to shoot hoops with NBA basketball legend Jason Kidd at the Willie Keyes Recreation Center in West Oakland recently.

The extraordinary day featured a ribbon-cutting celebrating the center’s remodel, courtesy of the Jason Kidd Foundation and retired NBA player Antonio Davis. Coordinated via a partnership with the City of Oakland Office of Parks and Recreation, the nearly $200,000 remodel included interior paint, major improvements and furnishings to the gymnasium, entrance way, computer room, multipurpose room, and outside play areas.

“Kids need a safe place to learn, develop and call home so I’m happy to help make that happen in my hometown,” said Kidd.

“From the bottom of my heart, I thank Jason Kidd and his team for working with us and providing a grant,” said City of Oakland Recreation Center Director, Vinzuela Bolden.

“It’s great to see the kids so happy and the people who grew up in the community walk in and say “’wow,’” said City of Oakland Project and Sports Coordinator Frederick Morris. “This is about building a home away from home.”

The newly renovated facility at 3131 Union St. will offer expanded community use to all ages and abilities, with the goal to enhance career opportunities, researching, and college exploration.

Kidd’s whirlwind weekend included being inducted into the Bay Area Hall of Fame in San Francisco on May 2. He was also the featured guest in a fireside chat for the launch of HipHopTV at Cliff Bar headquarters in Emeryville.

Before an audience of 300, Kidd discussed growing up in Oakland and how his passion for excellence powered him to legendary status as a student and then professional athlete.

Guests included his childhood friend, Chris Fortenberry, sisters Denise Taylor and Kimberly Kidd and his 4th grade elementary school teacher Lori Perenon, among others. “Were it not for the support of my parents, family, Ms. Perenon and great coaches, I would not be where I am today,” said Kidd.

“He was always a special child,” said Perenon.

Shawn Granberry, CEO of HipHopTV attended school with Kidd and said the extraordinary athlete had a game-changing attitude as a child. “Growing up with Jason you could tell he was going places, he is a prime example of what our youth can become.”

With Kidd’s help Granberry founded the Scholar Athletic Union and Bears Youth Basketball partnering with Stanford and UC Berkeley faculty to steer young athletes to college.

Jason Kidd just signed on as assistant coach with the Los Angeles Lakers. He was previously a 10-time NBA All-Star, a five-time All-NBA First Team member, and a nine-time NBA All Defensive Team member.

He won an NBA Championship in 2011 as a member of the Dallas Mavericks, and was a two-time Olympic Gold Medal winner during his pro career, as part of Team USA in 2000 and 2008. He was inducted as a player into the Naismith Memorial Basketball  Hall of Fame.

Kidd played college basketball for  the California Golden Bears and was drafted second overall by the Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the 1994 NBA Draft. He was named co- NBA Rookie of the Year  co-NBA Rookie on his first season with the Mavericks.

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