Devin Booker returns to Moss Point and unveils new basketball courts
Saturday morning, before Hurricane Ida took its toll on the Gulf Coast, the sun was shining in Moss Point as Phoenix Suns Guard Devin Booker returned to the River City to unveil two refurbished basketball courts in the community.
Booker, along with the 2K Foundation and the artist Mister Cartoonist, designed two outdoor courts for the city in which the 2x NBA All-Star earned his high school diploma and grew into the player and person he is today.
Devin’s father and former NBA player Melvin Booker said, “Man, it almost gave tears to my eyes because these people are so proud of him and you know I was getting it all season long with the year he was having. I was getting so many text messages and calls from people here that they were really supporting him and they were really excited for him.”
After a historical season with the Suns, leading his team to the franchise’s first NBA Finals since 1993 and winning a gold medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics with Team USA, NBA Guard and former Moss Point alum Devin Booker returned to his old stomping grounds.
Family, friends, and dozens of community members gathered to watch the ribbon cutting for two basketball courts Booker had been working on in collaboration with 2K Foundation since November. Melvin Booker said, “It feels good to give back to the community, man. We some humble guys. Like it’s dope to have a number on there, but this is like– Moss Point is like a big family community. It’s amazing to see the smiles on all these people’s faces that I grew up with out here.”
Collaborating with LA artist Mister Cartoonist, the former Tiger added personal touches to the courts like his father’s Moss Point number and paying tribute to his late uncle, Lil’ Mike. “Devin talks about Mike all the time. Like when we’re out there it feels like– one thing he told me is during the national anthem that he and you know he has his eyes closed that’s one person he’s thinking about is Mike. And he honors him a lot on his shoes. So, Mike was instrumental in his life. Like I said he’s like a big uncle. He was always around and you know it was special.”
One of the refurbished courts is located at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Jackson County. The second court is in a Moss Point neighborhood dubbed South 40, an area which is looked after by a group of 40 men that grew up there. South 40 Member Reginald Murphy said, “Tony Berry, he told us 30 years ago, he said man, if you don’t let drugs be sold here, you’ll never have a problem and we grasped to that. We never allowed it. We come here, hang out, shoot ball. We clean it up. We do the landscaping. Taking his advice from him. He had a vision. He gave it to us and we ran with it.”
In the 60s and 70s, the park, which was recently named Calvin ‘Choke’ Stallworth Park, was a swamp and then a city dump. “When I was in elementary school at Charlotte Height back in the 70’s, I used to walk from school through this way. We used to actually play on a pile of trash. And we went from playing on a pile of trash now to a basketball court. And now the transition. Now we have a gold medalist here, man. You know, in his honor we got a brand-new court.”
To cap off Devin Booker Day celebrations, Moss Point Mayor Billy Knight presented Booker with a key to the city, inviting the NBA star to come back to his hometown anytime.
Every Thursday, the South 40 crew still gathers at the park for fellowship and some hoops. Everyone’s invited to join.