Kenny “The Jet” Smith visited New Orleans a day after Will Smith (no relation) was shot and killed.
The former NBA player turned television analyst wasn’t here for the former Saints player.
But in a way, he was.
The Jet recently joined Coors Light in New Orleans to present a $25,000 donation to the Urban League of Greater New Orleans Young Professionals to help enhance another local basketball court. It’s part of the Full Court reFRESH program.
And I know what you’re probably saying.
What does that have to do with Smith’s death or any of the other deaths that have plagued this city?
“It’s definitely a part,” Kenny Smith said. “It’s not the solvent, but it’s a part of the solution. Giving people an opportunity to have a safe haven, a place to go, things of that nature, this program helps that.”
Smith presented the $25,000 check during halftime of the Pelicans’ regular season finale two weeks ago.
And while $25,000 won’t fix the violence in this city or any other city, programs like this are part of the baby steps needed.
Anytime you can occupy youth’s time, it can only help.
It’s the second time the program has donated to the city of New Orleans. Smith helped raise $15,000 in 2014. That money was used to purchase equipment at the Kenner Recreational Center. Jameeta Youngblood, President of Urban League of Greater New Orleans Young Professionals, said they haven’t decided which courts in the city will be refurbished this time.
The program is also refurbishing courts in Oakland, Sacramento and Chicago this year.
Smith wanted to make sure New Orleans was once again one of the cities helped this year.
Smith, a two-time NBA champion with the Houston Rockets, never played with a New Orleans franchise in his 11-year NBA career, but he’s had an affection for the city since 2005.
“Initially, my first love affair with New Orleans came through Katrina, honestly,” he said.
After the storm, he helped raise over $3 million to help inner city areas affected by Hurricane Katrina.
“When we started doing the Full-Court reFRESH program, I said, ‘This is one of the stops we have to make,’ ” Smith said. “It’s been a great program to help refurbish basketball courts, which a lot of times is a centerpiece in a lot of communities. So it serves as more than just a court. When you see it, you feel good about your neighborhood and, in turn, you honestly feel good about yourself. It’s a small part, but it’s a part of helping communities. I think a basketball court in the community just brings a lot of people together.”
But he also knows there is much more to helping solve the city’s violence, which was once again put under the microscope with Will Smith’s death.
“The one thing that’s super important is education, so people make smarter decisions,” Smith said.” It’s important to understand the ramifications and consequences of what you’re doing. This is unfortunate, and it’s a high-profile person and his family that was in the altercation, but this happens all across the country. There’s a lot of misdirected energy. It’s unfortunate.”
Here’s hoping whatever court is refurbished can keep one kid off the streets and save at least one life.
It’s a start.