Kyle Anderson, a productive NBA small-forward on the Memphis Grizzlies who is approaching his sixth season, returned to his hometown of North Bergen, with plans to do more than catch up with relatives who still live locally.
On Aug. 11 and 12, Anderson hosted a Celebrate Life Day basketball tournament and clinic. He began running the clinic and tournament a few years ago in the wake of a personal tragedy.
Anderson’s friend, Paul Kim, died in an incident that was ruled a suicide by authorities in October 2014. He was a 20-year-old Rutgers University student at the time.
“So many people came out to attend, support, and just enjoy the day.” — Anthony Vainieri
In years since, Anderson dedicated the annual event in his memory. The event, which began in 2016, took place at James J. Braddock County Park this year.
On the first day of the program, Anderson hosted a men’s basketball tournament alongside coaches and trainers. On the second day, his group hosted a clinic for children in a wide range of age groups.
For dozens of local kids between the ages of 7 and 14, the event was a chance to spend an early morning and afternoon honing their offensive and defensive skills with an NBA star.
For Anderson, it was a chance to honor his late friend by bringing his hometown together to support a mental health initiative aimed at adolescents, who’ve seen massive spikes in clinical depression rates in the past decade.
In a 2016 Johns Hopkins University survey, one in six adolescent girls reported a recent episode of clinical depression.
The camp, which cost $25 per participant, raised funds for Erika’s Lighthouse, a nonprofit organization that partners with school districts to run depression awareness and suicide prevention programs in classrooms throughout the country.
The mental health professionals at Erika’s Lighthouse provide a variety of educational materials, including videos and handbooks, for teacher-led discussions on depression. They also provide parents with handbooks on the topic of depression. All the materials and services are free.
“So many people came out to attend, support, and just enjoy the day,” Hudson County Freeholder Chairman Anthony Vainieri said. He was one of many North Bergen officials who stopped by to thank Anderson for returning to champion the fundraiser and draw a huge turnout.
Anderson grew up in North Bergen before moving to Fairview, at which point he began a high school career at St. Anthony High School. With Anderson as a starter, the team played undefeated for two years in a row. After St. Anthony took home the second consecutive New Jersey Tournament of Champions title, the Star-Ledger named him “Player of the Year.”
Anderson went on to play for the UCLA Bruins throughout his college career. From 2014-2018, he played for the San Antonio Spurs, before moving on to the Grizzlies.