Sacramento Kings legend Chris Webber returned to what he called his “second home” Monday to kick off the California Summer Classic with a career mentoring session for Sacramento youth.
Webber joined the students in small group discussions, answering questions about his own life and encouraging them to pursue their passions through hard work.
“Looking back, I’m thankful that I had really good people around me like my parents and teachers,” he told the students. “I’m thankful for all your parents and mentors here today, because they’re here to encourage you.”
He shared a message of resilience, recalling his experience growing up in “a tough area” of Detroit and having to attend the funeral of a close friend on the day of his first AAU game.
The students opened up to him about their own lives, their dreams to play in the WNBA and how the mentors in their lives have encouraged academic and athletic excellence.
“These kids have seen some of the worst growing up like I had growing up,” he said. “It’s not a fair system. They need to find something that they love and they need to work hard to cultivate it.”
The Build.Black. Coalition mentorship session is part of a year-long effort by the Kings to build a stronger relationship with community activists and local organizations.
Protests over the Sacramento police officers’ killing of Stephon Clark successfully shut down entrances to the Golden 1 Center last March, blocking fans from entering a Kings home game.
Since then, the Kings have partnered with community organizations, including the Sierra Health Foundation, which co-hosted Monday’s mentorship event, to create opportunities for black youth in Sacramento. The Kings and Queens Rise Co-Ed Basketball league is a Build.Black. initiative in its second season of games.
On Wednesday, during the final day of the California Classic, the Kings will announce some of the winners of the Team Up for Change scholarship, according to a Kings press release. The $1,000 scholarship will be awarded by the Sacramento Police Foundation Criminal Justice Magnet School Academy and the Sierra Health Foundation to 50 students entering the Academy or a college in the fall.
Webber said that he is “very impressed” with how the Kings have responded to community unrest over police violence.
“It’s great to see what this organization is doing, and I’m very proud of how they’re trying to lead the way or how they’re trying to make sure they’re proactive in talking to the community that supports them so much,” he said.
“Sac is my second home,” he said. “I’m a part of the community here and I want to make sure that I stay a part of this community.”