Committee member Kurk Lee lends his pedigree to assist in planning the Annual Shirts vs Skins Basketball Classic
By Noah Rubeling-Kain
The game of basketball often mirrors the game of life.
In the span of 48 minutes, a team can heat up for a few possessions and grab a commanding lead, only to hit the wall moments later.
Some games every shot is going in, others you couldn’t hit the ocean.
The stakes are even higher, when you aren’t just fighting to win, but are just trying to make the team.
Born and raised in Baltimore, Kurk Lee, knows this story all too well.
A star at Towson University where he was named East Coast Conference Player of the Year in the 1988-89 season, Kurk found himself on the outside looking in when the NBA draft rolled around in the following spring.
Despite averaging 25.4 ppg and leading the Tigers to their first two Division I winning seasons, on draft day, his name was never called.
But that didn’t slow Kurk down.
He played his way onto the New Jersey Nets practice squad and eventually made the 1990-91 team.
And while his NBA career only lasted one season, Kurk’s perseverance and love of the game allowed him the opportunity to continue playing professional basketball in the CBA, IBL, and internationally until he retired in 2002.
Since then, Kurk has shifted his focus on giving back to the community through the game of basketball.
In October 2013 Kurk heard that Brian O’Shea, founder of the Annual Shirts vs. Skins Basketball Classic, was in the planning stages of a unique and community involved basketball tournament that will benefit the American Diabetes Association. The tournament will focus on creating a diverse competitive environment for several Baltimore Catholic and Public High Schools.
The main mission of the tournament is to create a community awareness and education about diabetes. When Kurk heard about Brian O’Shea’s mission to create a unique forum that combines diabetes detection, awareness, prevention and education on this nasty disease, he decided it was at least a good idea to hear Brian pitch his vision. As Kurk sat with Brian for lunch in Harbor East in October 2013 and listened to O’Shea’s vision of how he wanted to create the ultimate athletic event that provies community awareness about diabetes, a unique public relations venue for their athletic sponsor and a platform where up and coming media talent can practice their craft, Kurk made a decision that day that he wanted to help make the vision a reality.
Today, 29.1 million people or 9.3% of the population have diabetes. There are 8.1 million people (27.8%) who are undiagnosed. These type of statistics help support the reason that Kurk Lee wants to help promote community awareness and play an integral part in the Annual Shirts vs Skins Basketball Classic.
Players will have the opportunity to learn public speaking skills, how to interact with the media, receive tips from professional players, and learn more about the increasing nationwide diabetes epidemic.
When asked about the tournament Kurk mentioned that, “Giving back to a cause is great.” and that he expects the tournament to help teach players valuable skills both on and off the court.
While getting a moment to chat with Kurk at the Carmelo Center, it was clear from the beginning how important giving back to the community was to him.
For the past ten years Kurk has worked for the Baltimore Boys and Girls Club, a position that transitioned to Kurk’s current role at the Carmelo Anthony Youth Development Center located in East Baltimore. He also functions as the President of the Team Melo AAU programs for 14, 15, and 17-year-olds.
“I try to treat every kid as my own.” Kurk mentioned after explaining that not every kid who attends the center has someone they can look up to at home. He stresses with his players that, “Whatever you put in is what you’ll get out of it. If you work hard, you’ll get somewhere.”
And as mentioned earlier, he has the experience to back it up.
Kurk has found that this philosophy is applicable for players both on and off the court. He went into further detail explaining how, “People come to the center with negative attitudes, but by the end (of their time at the center) they leave with a solid resume, GED, and help with job placement.” It’s those transitions that keep him motivated.