Driving into the small town of Kelford, North Carolina now holds a more emotional weight for Atlanta Hawks’ forward Kent Bazemore.
Entering the town as of last week, a sign now reads, 'Welcome to the Town of Kelford. Drive safely. Home of NBA player Kent Bazemore.'
The town with less than 300 is where it began for Bazemore. It's home.
Bazemore loves his roots. He loves to do for others. Bazemore immerses himself in serving those in his family. He was raised that way and he’s learned that lesson multiple times throughout his life and in his seven seasons in the NBA.
Everything that he has become in his 29 years stemmed from Kelford. His humble approach to life came from his mother. He was taught early on to have pride in where he comes from.
His hardworking, do things the right way mentality came from Kelford. Many of the attributes learned on the 297 arches that make up Kelford is what allowed Bazemore to work himself into a college scholarship at a non-traditional basketball school at Old Dominion. He stayed at the school five years and went undrafted before working himself onto NBA rosters before parlaying a big contract with the Hawks.
“My mom taught me growing up to not only be proud of where you come from because at the end of the day it plays a large part to who you are,” Bazemore said. “My humbleness and how grounded I am came from those 18 years living in Kelford in the environment that I was in and being on the underprivileged side of the resources and everything that you need to be successful in the game of basketball. That’s a long time and I’m only 29-years-old so I’ve only been out of there 11 years. There’re still things that I hold onto dearly that get me through day to day things… I’m a guy that loves my roots and I love people to kind of respect their roots too. One thing that I don’t appreciate is guys that get to a certain place and never go back or never really do anything in their community. It’s kind of disheartening to get where you are not trying and pull up the ones that are trying to get there as well.”
The past 11 years haven’t come easy and they haven’t given Bazemore a time to sit back and think about the amazing journey he’s already been on.
In the high-speed pursuit of an NBA player’s life, the early years of a new marriage and being a pillar in his own immediate and extended family Bazemore was awarded a moment to stop and take in what he has achieved.
Bazemore attended what he thought was a celebration for his mother at his old elementary school, who is a local teacher in the Kelford.
Instead, tears streamed down the face of the Kelford native. The town was honoring him.
“I just kind of started to cry,” Bazemore said. “You live your life worrying about everyone else. I’m married now, I got my immediate family that I’m trying to take care of and you worry about if they’re okay and how they’re doing. It’s good for people to kind of help you stop and live in the moment and appreciate some of the stuff you’ve accomplished.”
The event allowed Bazemore to take a trip down memory lane. Among the moment of stillness, Bazemore took an opportunity to visit his old school, his old house and many of the places that shaped him as a kid.
“I go back (home) every summer, but this one was different,” Bazemore said. “It brought back a lot of old feelings and I took a lap around where I used to live, and I had all these daydreams about the good old times.”
Kelford raised Bazemore.
It wasn’t only his parents.
“It takes a village,”
His village made him into NBA player Kent Bazemore.
Growing up Bazemore wasn’t a troublemaker. He wasn’t a street kid. The most trouble he can remember getting into was blurting out answers in class.
“My mom was a teacher, so she gave permission to all of her co-workers (to discipline me) if they saw me out of line,” Bazemore said. “That old saying that it takes a village to raise a child, I’m a living testament to that. I had teachers that would discipline me on the spot. It got to a point where everywhere you looked there was a teacher that would get on you. Over time you just kind of straighten up and I just stayed out of trouble. I didn’t like the whoopings and all that stuff. I didn’t enjoy that at all.”
Heading into his 30s as an established veteran in the NBA Bazemore has begun to think about what his responsibilities are as the teacher and as a father.
One of the things that Bazemore believes will be a priority is teaching his future children about his time in Kelford. He wants to establish a place of humbleness early on to children who will grow up much differently than he did.
“I definitely want to show them (children), because that’s the tricky thing being in the position that I’m in now and bringing kids into this world,” Bazemore said. “All they will know is where I am now. They won’t really see where we come from. It’ll be good to get them down there and let them hang out and let them see what it was like and see how hard you have to work.”