Nuggets’ Martin teaches hoops, life lessons in Snowmass | AspenTimes.com

Nuggets’ Martin teaches hoops, life lessons in Snowmass

Stewart Oksenhorn
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

Stewart Oksenhorn/The Aspen TimesDenver Nuggets forward Kenyon Martin poses for a photo with sisters Carmen, left, and Ashley Ramey, Tuesday afternoon at the Snowmass Recreation Center. Martin was a featured participant in the Hoops for Kids basketball camp.

SNOWMASS VILLAGE – Denver Nuggets forward Kenyon Martin says his on-court persona as a mischief-maker is more reputation than reality. But as an episode in a game last January demonstrated, there is plenty of substance behind the image. As Charlotte Bobcats forward Stephen Jackson prepared to take a foul shot, a grinning Martin walked behind Jackson and gave a few big, demonstrative claps. For his behavior, Martin was given a technical foul – his second of the game – and an ejection from the game, which the Nuggets eventually won.

In Snowmass Village this week, Martin is doing his part to make sure that kids in perilous circumstances limit their mischief to such on-court antics, and don’t fall into more troublesome behavior. Martin, along with the Viceroy Snowmass hotel and the Snowmass Recreation Center, are holding the Hoops for Kids All-Star Celebrity Basketball Camp, which began Tuesday and concludes Thursday. Among the invited guests are two handfuls of Denver kids from underprivileged backgrounds, who will have a chance to learn basketball techniques – and go on a rafting trip and attend the Snowmass Rodeo tonight – while also learning some life skills from Martin. In addition, a gala event Tuesday night at the Viceroy was designed to raise funds for the Snowmass Rec Center, and for the Kenyon Martin Foundation, which was launched two years ago to provide assistance to young people in difficult situations – pregnant, growing up without father figures, living in poverty, using and dealing drugs.

“Those are the things I grew up around, each day of my childhood,” Martin said Monday evening in Snowmass, at an opening reception for the camp that featured appearances by former Nuggets general manager Kiki Vandeweghe, team trainer Steve Hess and San Diego Chargers linebacker Marques Harris.

For the past three weeks, Martin has been dealing with a different kind of challenge: injury. Martin had surgery in mid-June at the Steadman Clinic in Vail to repair the tendon in his left patella. Monday evening, he wore a brace on his knee, and spent much of the evening sitting. The condition didn’t seem to affect his focus on lending a hand to children growing up in circumstances similar to those he faced as a kid in the Oak Cliff neighborhood of Dallas.

“A lot of people gave Charles Barkley flack when he said, ‘I’m not a role model,'” Martin said. “But whether you want to be or not, you are. You’re obligated to help people. There are a lot of unfortunate people. I’m far from selfish. Whatever you need me to do, I’ll do.”

Martin, who is 32, formed his foundation just two years ago, noting that there had been false starts to establishing such an organization, and that he was determined to get it right. But even before the Kenyon Martin Foundation was created, Martin was involved with philanthropic efforts, including donating money to tsunami victims, and going to New Orleans and Houston following Hurricane Katrina. More recently, he donated money to victims of the earthquake in Haiti.

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For the moment, Snowmass Village is a center of that effort, and it may continue to play a role in Martin’s philanthropic projects. Jeff David, general manager of the Viceroy Snowmass, has a history of partnering with the NBA and its players in creating events. He has helped organize basketball camps in the Caribbean that have featured basketball stars Tim Duncan and Patrick Ewing, and in Los Angeles he has worked on Midsummer Night’s Magic, a philanthropic event tied to the Magic Johnson Foundation. David is hoping to make Hoops for Kids Camp an annual event in Snowmass, and said he has been impressed by the basketball players he works with.

“The NBA is one of those leagues that really cares,” he said.

Assisting troubled inner-city kids seems to be closest to Martin’s heart.

“I understand first-hand,” he said, noting that when he was 12, a close friend of his got shot. “I’m not going to do anything I don’t know first-hand. I went without financially. I know what it is not to have a father, where nobody ever came back and did anything for you. So why wouldn’t I [help kids in similar situations]? It was a must.”

Martin’s advice to kids is simple: Word hard at whatever you do.

“I wasn’t the most studious one,” he said. “Sports was my outlet. I stayed at the gym. My mom used to have to call there, tell them to send me home. The NBA – that wasn’t a thought of mine. It was a way out, not to be on the streets.”

His focus on basketball still left room for mischief-making, but of a fairly benign sort. “I was mischievous,” Martin said. “But I didn’t get into the big trouble, the police trouble. I got into trouble for fighting.”

As for the shenanigans that got him thrown out of the game against Charlotte, Martin laughs.

“That was reputation alone. Just reputation,” he said, explaining how he got a technical foul for clapping his hands.

“That’s the stuff I did, day-in, day-out. Now, I’ve just transferred where I do it. On the court, yeah, I’m mischievous. I’m all about competing and all about winning. If I can do something to get under someone’s skin, I’ll do it.”

stewart@aspentimes.com