This week I have talked about failed dreams and a lot of negative aspects of living in Flint so I wanted to wrap things up by talking about the hope that hoops provides it’s residents.
One of the ways that basketball provides kids hope is the adulation kids receive for excelling at this sport. High school games in Flint have upwards of 6,000 fans come out to games and it provides kids a way to gain positive notoriety in their community.
A Genesee County Job Corps Basketball Player told Davenport that, “you can’t describe the feeling that you get. Everybody’s anticipating you to do these things. They are hyping you up and you can’t believe the moment will ever get here. Once you are into that locker room and you see your jersey sitting by your locker… the butterflies that go through your stomach. At first it’s like, so scared, you don’t know what to do and you don’t want to let these people down but once you put that jersey on you become Superman. It’s like I’m invincible. You can’t describe those feelings when everybody quiet in the locker room, you say your little prayer, and then it’s time to actually go out. Go out on the floor where all these people, hundred of people, are waiting to cheer your name, your school out. Man, it’s so surreal. You probably couldn’t believe it if you weren’t there. You hit that big bucket, you hit that first bucket, the whole crowd goes wild. From that moment on you feel like you can’t miss, like you are invincible.”
You don’t need to be a star player to enjoy the benefits of play ball. A Flint High School kid told Davenport in the documentary that he goes “to the open gym every day. If I ain’t hooping then I’m going to be doing the wrong thing. I’d rather have a basketball in my hand than a gun.”
Athletes like Mateen Cleaves have lifted up by his community because he refuses to forget where he came from and he tries to take care of the people he grew up with. Cleaves thinks the future for Flint looks bright because, “we’ve got kids from five or six years old doing things that I can do with the ball. When I come back, and going through the old hood and the playground watching kids, and watching kids from Flint, it’s out cold. We’re going to keep guys going to college and pros for years to come in Flint. The future looks so bright man. You’ve got kids that can falt out put the ball in the basketball. They are doing stuff I couldn’t do when I was that young. The future is looking bright but we just gotta’ keep them active. We gotta’ keep them into sports and make sure they know that they gotta hit the books. As far as basketball wise they can play. We gotta’ keep them away from guns. Keep them away from drugs. Keep them away from all that negative stuff and keep them on that positive vibe. Guys like myself and other pros, and some of the younger guys right under me, continue go back and help these kids. Flint, we’re going to stay as one of the top basketball cities in the nation.
Here’s to hoping that more athletes from Flint turn out like Cleaves and are willing to help out their community once they make their millions in the NBA or NFL.