Brooklyn Nets’ Kenneth Faried Shares His Journey in Return to Newark
NEWARK, N.J. -- Kenneth Faried didn’t have to come back to Newark. After the Denver Nuggets traded him to the Brooklyn Nets this summer, Kenneth could’ve kept to himself in New York City, a river away from the violence and crime of his hometown.
But he’s happy to be here the day before he turns 29. So are all the kids at the Salvation Army on Springfield Avenue. The warm Thanksgiving meals—turkey with the fixings, along with healthier options—are a treat, as are the opportunities to play NBA 2K19 and Dragon Ball Z, like the holidays at their favorite cousin’s house.
Kenneth, though, is the one who really lights up the room, as if he’s just caught a lob off the backboard. The children follow his every step. Parents rush for pictures. He signs basketballs, towels and t-shirts branded with the Nets logo. The older kids relentlessly egg him on to engage in dunk and layup competitions on the open floor. He poses with every soul in attendance. This homecoming is a special one, as much for him and the kids as for the city itself.
"It’s always a good thing for people to see people from their area being successful. Going back, helping out gives them a glimmer of hope that certain things can happen in their own lives," says Newark Mayor Ras Baraka. "Usually, you see athletes do things in other places, generally not where they’re from for different foundations that have access to them. It takes a little bit more effort to come back. You have to actually do that on your own and have the will to make that happen. [Kenneth] does, and that’s a good thing."
While at his first annual Thanksgiving Turkey Drive, Kenneth opened up to CloseUp360 about his journey from Newark to Brooklyn, building his foundation and AAU team, following in his father's musical footsteps and more. This is Kenneth Faried’s story, in his own words, edited for clarity and length.
Kenneth Faried at his first annual Thanksgiving Turkey Drive in Newark. (@nextsubject)
I knew from the first time when they ask you in kindergarten what you wanted to be when you grow up. I put, "I'm going to be an NBA player." I put NBA in capital letters. I remember this like it was yesterday.
Then you get to high school. What do you want to be, your pursuits in high school? Still NBA. NBA player. No matter what.
Everyone's, like, You won't make it. You're not talented enough. You suck. You're too skinny. You aren't tall enough.
I grew height. Oh, you're still skinny. You can't do this. You can't make layups. You can't shoot free throws.
Everything—it was so much. All you do is dunk. That's not going to get you to the NBA. You have to be better. You've got to be more skilled. All you'll do is run and jump, and rebound the ball.
I've never accepted anybody's defeat that they tried to give to me. I never will. I don't accept defeat, not matter what. I'm going to push through and find a way. It may not be that same day, it may not be tomorrow. It may take me four years, and it took me four years. I graduated college with a degree in speech communication and business management. At the end of the day, I don't really care what anyone has to say.
Growing up, I used to look at [former Philadelphia 76ers guard] Eric Snow. The man was born in Newark. Lived at 515 Elizabeth Avenue—actually my building. People used to always say, "Yo, Eric Snow, bruh. Technology [High School], I see you. I see you with the accolades, I see you getting the paperwork." When I used to go to the park, walk down the street to the park, "I'm going to Technology—you should watch us. Watch this—I'm going nuts this year."
They saw me go nuts one summer, my freshman summer. Everyone saw me break out and blossom. Got a little taller, just a little bit bigger. Still a skinny kid. Everyone still called me a rail. Once I got a little taller and was dunking frequently, everything just seemed to come easy—rebounding, my ability to play basketball, my knowledge for the game. My love for it just grew even more once I started grabbing the rim. I started dunking on people and was, like, "Hey, I love this!"
I graduated. I got a diploma, then I made it to the NBA. So really, what can you tell me? I achieved all the dreams I wanted. I wanted to graduate college. I said to my mother, Waudda, "I am going to graduate college. Even if I go early to the NBA, I'm going back to graduate. I'm giving you that diploma.”
My mom taught me to work hard. My father, Kenneth, taught me to work hard. It's pretty much simple. I just had to work hard myself to get to my dream. When I got there, the work didn't stop.
My mother believed in me. My father believed in me. I had friends around who believed in me and pushed me towards that. Then I had other people who didn't believe in me. I had family members who didn't think I was going to make it. At the end of the day, none of that mattered to me. I knew that I can do it.
When I play basketball, that sets my soul on fire—seeing my family happy, my mom and dad proud of me, especially where I grew up at. I mean, here, coming from Newark, New Jersey, born and raised, literally right across the street from a park where they find so many murders. Drive-bys coming through. People being shot at. Myself and my brother being part of a drive-by—not doing the shooting, but shot at. I've seen a lot, I've been through a lot.
We didn't live in a good neighborhood, in the suburbs where I could go in the middle of the street, like it was Colorado or something. There wasn't a nice, "Hey neighbor, how you doing?" It wasn't like that. You went outside and you worry about, "Fuck you looking at!" You worried about people looking at you that way.
That's why my mother was crazy and strict. She was getting me prepared for the real world. "You're gonna do wonders in this world, so I'm going to prepare you the only way I know how."
My mother has that "mother heart"—protect her child, make sure her son doesn't have to worry about anything or hurt from pain from other people. She did a hell of a job. I commend her and respect her for that.
My dad prepared me, too. He's crazy also. So people ask me, "Who's the craziest?" They're both crazy on the same spectrum.
My father is a little more sane than my mother. He just tells me like it is. He would tell me, "Hey, you gon’ be with this person for now, but you have other things to do. Basketball should be your love, school should be your love. You have other things to do in this life. You're gonna find somebody who's right for you and checks every box for you. Stop trying to go down to people's level and continue to rise up.”
I'm like my dad. My dad did DJing growing up. For me, DJing is to sit back, listen to great music and figure out ways to put it together. Mixing different beats to go into different songs, I grew up watching my dad do that. He would take a Mary J. Blige beat and put it with a KRS-One verse. I'm, like, "What?!" He'll take Biggie and mix in an old beat with Mase or something like that.
My father recorded my voice before I was even thinking of doing stuff like that. I think I'm making it a drop for all the artists at my music management company, Infinite Visions. It's just me saying, "What happened to the music?" My voice is really young. I'm, like, Wow! That was me! For me, I like to see people create. I'm a creative myself, but I'm more creative on the court and design. I can draw stuff. I like to have people sit there and come up with ideas.
I was blessed to have my father. When I went to high school, he was able to buy a house. That was a blessing. It's still in the hood, but buying a house wasn't the big thing to do back then. That was amazing.
And my mother was able to move up into a bigger apartment. We were in a one-bedroom at first. Moved into a two-bedroom. It was not much and in the same building. My house, my building is infested, elevators not working. I have to walk up 24 flights of stairs. But it was better than what most people were getting in our building. I still have a bed and I can sleep. I don't have to worry about someone breaking into my house because we have all this extra stuff around to make sure everything is safe.
So for me, that warms my soul to see my mother not struggle no more, see my father not struggle no more, see my kids not having to go through what I went through. To be able to do all of that for my family, and on the same token give back to others, that warms my soul—and, of course, playing basketball.
So, in what way can I give back? In what way can I be helpful to my city? People might be going through the same thing or worse than me—than what I've been through.
My parents taught me how to be a man growing up. At the age of 17, I moved out on my own, going to college at Morehead State. That was a scary sight for me. One time, I got homesick and just started crying. I went through a lot. I was 17. For me, I learned. I had to adapt because I'm not going to always have my parents there.
It made me the generous, giving person I am today. That's why I started my foundation, Humble, Appreciative and Thankful. Kenneth Faried's H.A.T. That's the acronym. I started it basically eight years ago per say, when I first got to the league. I was always thinking of things, how to give back. Me and my best friend run the foundation.
When it first started, H.A.T. was an AAU group. It was more Team Manimal. Everyone knew Team Manimal. We were moving up in rank basketball-wise. It was fun times.
I wanted to do more and I'm like, “This is good. This is a great start for what we're doing. We've got to get on a bigger bracket, a bigger circuit." We made it to adidas. At first, they were just helping us with gear. Now, they've asked for us to join the adidas bracket since we're doing well. So we joined that about two years ago.
Last year, I wanted the gold [designation on the adidas Gauntlet circuit]. I went to my people at adidas and said we want to be gold.
This summer, I opened up the foundation even more. After I went to the Pro-Am for Fortnite, and came in second with my partner [Courage], I instantly said "I know exactly what I want to do with this." I partnered with the Giving Back Foundation and they came aboard to help me manage everything—taxes, etc. I'm more so into getting the kids and interacting with the kids—telling the kids the positive stories that I get to tell everybody, everyday.
Now, I pretty much give back and know where my money's going, know that it's helping the people that I want it to help.
I still do things like give to the Salvation Army, give to the Lupus Foundation of America, give to autism, Down syndrome. Now I can do it within the umbrella of my company. People can know that Kenneth Faried did this. For me, I've been donating to my AAU team, also considered a charity. All their gear is donated to them.
I'm giving back the day before my birthday [November 19]. That's all that matters to me. I could've decided to have a big-ass party for my birthday. I decided no. I want to give back to the community I was born and raised in instead. Spend the money on that. I'll be fine.
Musicians on Infinite Visions, Kenneth's Management Company
In addition to his community work, Kenneth owns Infinite Visions, an artist management company, with his business partner, Atar Hajali. Here are the musicians they represent:
It’s about giving back, the kids chasing their dreams, going after what they want, going after what they love. To me, that's sports. I'm trying to build a sports facility for any sport: swimming, track, basketball, football, hockey, gymnastics. It doesn't matter.
My kids love all sports. My daughter says she wants to be a cheerleader. Next day, she wants to do gymnastics. Next day, she wants to do volleyball. Next day, she wants to do softball.
I love the kids. No matter which way you want to put it, you have to love the kids because they’re our future. If you don't believe in our future, what's the purpose of you trying to make a path for yourself?
Kenneth gives a speech at his Thanksgiving Turkey Drive. (@nextsubject)
I want to give back. I want people to know this hasn't changed who I am. Many people say, "If you didn't make millions doing this, would you play?" I can say, "Yes, because I love this game." I love basketball. It's opened so many doors and opportunities. I still have this big heart. I'm a bit more protected with myself because of people trying to get after me, but I want to give back and I love the kids.
That's how I've been my whole life. I used to work at a daycare growing up. So for me, I've loved kids growing up my whole life. They need to see that. It's the way adults treat the kids and make them react in the energy we give them in order to act towards other people.
My eight-year-old knows that already. She's already on top of everything. So for me, I'm teaching my kids how my parents taught me. I'm teaching the kids from AAU the same principles of being an adult, a productive person in this community. Be a respected person.
I really did make it out of this situation. I really am looking across the water looking at New Jersey. I made it here to New York, playing for the team that I used to go watch growing up as a kid. They're in New York, but it’s still my New Jersey Nets to me. It's still my hometown.
I remember I was on the court and I literally slapped hands with all the players as they came out. I look at the kids that do it now as they slap hands. I used to be one of these kids. This is a blessing to me.
I remember I told Vince Carter, "I'll be there one day!" I remember I told Jason Kidd when I was younger, a senior in high school, playing AAU at the practice facility in New Jersey.
I said, "Hey, I'll be playing for this team one day."
Olivier Auguste is an NBA lifestyle writer based in New York City. Follow him on Twitter.