Kyle Korver with winter coat and without


Jan 20

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The Bulls Saturday at the United Center and various sites around the area host the annual Kyle Korver coat drive. I don’t write about many charitable endeavors, though the Bulls and various players are involved in quite a few. But I love this one just because of the immediacy and utility of the cause, especially as Chicago Friday sits under another snow storm.

I’m a believer in the notion that you cannot help everyone, but you can help someone. And Korver’s coat drive, which he has brought with him from his stays in Philadelphia and Utah, is one without any real middleman or woman or administrative cost.

You donate a new winter coat—and new is the operative part—and a kid gets to pick out and take home a new winter coat.

There aren’t many kids walking around Chicago without a winter coat. But often it’s not much of a coat and barely theirs.

“Can you imagine being in a situation without a coat?” Korver wonders. “And the second thing is a lot of kids are getting coats, but it’s a coat worn by six others, an older sister or brother and it might not fit. These are brand new coats.

“The kids walk up and pick one out, which one they want. It’s their new coat and there’s that ownership,” says Korver. “That adds something to it. Like when you were young and pick out that backpack for school. You’re so proud. That’s another way it helps.”

Korver is one of the most easy going, approachable players with an inviting laugh and eye for the zaniness of the world in which he temporarily resides, professional sports.

His involvement with the coat drive started when he was a rookie with the 76ers when the team asked Derrick Coleman, a somewhat erratic personality, to help.

“He walked into the locker room one day,” Korver starts off laughing, “and he says, ‘Rook. Give me money. For the kids.’”

Coleman was gone after that season and the project went to Korver, who figured there had to be a better way. So Korver started the coat drive and it became a huge success and he’s taken it with him to Salt Lake City and Chicago. I’m assuming that’s why he never is recruited in warm weather cities.

I like Korver’s projects because he is involved in all of them. It’s like his foundation, which began innocently enough when he and some friends were trying to start a Bible study group when he played in Philadelphia. They ended up finding an old, homeless mission in a not so great part of the city to use. He recalls the first day there neighborhood kids were bombarding them with apples and such, though as Korver recalled, “Well, you’re doing Bible study, so you can’t actually be mad at them.”

The next time back they started throwing around a football before the class and the kids all came running wanting to play. Eventually, it became a routine to come early so they could play with the kids. “It was fun,” Korver says.

But eventually winter comes wherever Korver is, so there were no more games. Instead, the Bible study group invited the kids inside to set up crafts and games and story time reading and it developed into an every day after school program that became the first project of the Kyle Korver Foundation.

It’s not the sort of foundation that gives out money. Instead, it finds a project and commits. For example, when Korver was traded to Utah he had a friend who was a general contractor and the foundation ended up building additions on homes for people.

“We try to find incredibly talented people with really great hearts who want to serve people and help them,” says Korver.

That led to a project to build handicapped ramps for people who could not afford them. It was people contributing their time and doing as much as they could with requests from various residents.

Korver said the foundation waits for just the right such niche project and hasn’t had a major one yet in Chicago, so it has mostly been working with schools and various organizations until a specialty project develops. The foundation started a t-shirt company at to raise money to support its projects. And there are the coats, of course.

So who is this Kyle Korver guy, other than one of the best perimeter shooters in the NBA? I decided to ask Korver a few quick questions about himself and here’s how he responded:

First job: “I worked for a funeral home (Pella, Ia.), cleaned the hearses, the Lincoln and minivan.”

First car: “A 1990 Chevy Lumina. I got it at 18. Before that I had to drive the family mini van and was really embarrassed. I never went on dates. I was too embarrassed.”

Favorite movie: “Braveheart.”

Favorite song: “Amazing Grace.”

Favorite music: “Just about everything but heavy metal.”

Best subject: “Math until we got to sine and cosine. Until then, I was really good.”

Worst subject: “Science, chemistry. I had no desire to learn.”

Favorite TV show: “Friday Night Lights. I watch a lot of TV on the road when we fly.”

Favorite food: “Steak and mashed potatoes.”

Favorite dessert: “Popcorn with M&M’s in it.”

Favorite recreational sport: “Golf.”

His handicap: “Last summer I played a lot with Deron Williams and friends and had to get a handicap. I played at Butler and Olympia Fields, and they are so hard they gave me a three or four. But I’m really like a seven or eight.”

Favorite golf course: “Merion in Pennsylvania.”

Favorite team growing up: “The Lakers. I grew up in L.A. (moving to Iowa at 12) and loved Magic and Byron Scott, Worthy, Cooper. As a young kid in L.A. that was it.”

If you were not a professional athlete what would you do? “Creating commercials for large companies with a huge budget. You see so many commercials that are so funny. It would be fun.”

His best day: “It would be sunny and I’d be outside. Play nine holes of golf, not 18. I wouldn’t want to take up an amazing day with 18. Probably be on water or the beach surrounded by the people I love and care about and finish with a bar-b-que.”

His perfect dinner companions: “My wife, my grandmother who passed away about 10 years ago and someone from the Bible, maybe King David. That would be a good crew.”

Most influential person in his life: “My dad (still a pastor).”

What most upsets you? “If I’m being funny, I’d say cell phone cameras, but bullies.”

Best moment in basketball: “I don’t think it’s happened yet. But being drafted and then it’s the point where you know you belong at this level and can play with all these players, where you go, ‘You know what. I can do this at the highest level.’ It was toward the end of my rookie season (after four years at Creighton), you make some plays and you know you are going to grow and improve and you feel, ‘I belong.’”

Worst moment in basketball: “Never winning a championship. Last year was the worst. It took a long time to recover.”


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