It was 25 years ago when Kenyatta Bey started the Point Breeze Youth Development Basketball League, a program that plays its summer games on a court at the corner of 19th Street and Washington Avenue.
It was just a few months ago that Mike Scott was acquired by the 76ers in a trade with the Los Angeles Clippers.
Despite Scott’s short time in Philadelphia, and without knowing Bey or the history of the PBYDBL, the two became linked in June when Scott donated $15,000 to help keep Bey’s program afloat.
A quarter of a century ago, Bey and his brother were sitting in a family-owned barbershop and came up with the idea of starting a basketball league. They wanted to do something that would give neighborhood kids a chance to not only get on the playground and learn the game, but to also learn life skills.
“We wanted to help them with conflict resolution, counsel them, give them a different outlet,” Bey said. “We want to provide a safe haven for the kids and help any way that we can.”
Slowly but surely, the basketball league caught on and continues to be a family affair. Bey, who is at the court four days a week and often works on a shoestring budget, has had to get creative with ways to generate contributions. Bey’s wife, Mona, is often seen grilling hot dogs and burgers that they sell to the kids and families who are at the games.
The late Rasual Butler, a Philadelphia native who spent 14 years in the NBA, was a donor before his death in 2018, but big-name donors are hard to come by.
Bey spends a lot of his time talking with neighborhood residents and Washington Avenue business owners in an effort to bring in contributions. As the end of the school year nears and Bey knows that soon he’ll have to buy uniforms and pay officials, it can be a lot of pressure, but through it all he’s been able to keep the league going.
Twelve years ago, Bey connected with Philadelphia city councilman Kenyatta Johnson, and that would eventually connect Bey to the Sixers.
“He had lost a son to gun violence, I had lost a cousin,” councilman Johnson said of his connection with Bey. “Kenyatta Bey is a stand-up guy on the court and off the court. So we started working together.”
Johnson had started Peace Not Guns, an organization aimed at ending gun violence by helping city youth find alternatives to keep them off the street and providing education. The PBYDBL partnered with Peace Not Guns and every summer the kids in the league play a game against Philadelphia police officers.
“It’s a chance for them to see law enforcement in a different light,” Bey said.
Three years ago councilman Johnson helped Bey secure funding for a top-to-bottom refurbishment of the court at 19th and Washington.
“It’s all in an effort to put young people in a high-quality environment with high-quality equipment,” councilman Johnson said.
The PBYDBL is able to tout success stories from past participants such as NBA players Deon Waiters, Kyle Lowry, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and Maalik Wayns. Bey wants to stay with the league as long as possible and produce even more success stories.
On June 9 Bey posted on Facebook: “Thanks to an anonymous donor all 12u & 14u players of Point Breeze Youth Development Basketball League can play for free.”
That donor, the Sixers’ Mike Scott, has no life-long connections to Philadelphia, no history with the youth league, and had no way of knowing if he would even be with the Sixers when NBA free agency opened June 30.
At the beginning of every season, or, in the case of Scott, when a player joins a new team, they fill out a mountain of paperwork. In that paperwork is a list of organizations or types of organization that the player would like to help through charitable donations.
Elton Brand, the Sixers general manager, had been in contact with city councilman Johnson, who then connected Bey and Brand. Bey was looking for funding, and Brand thought he might have a player who would be interested.
“EB brought it to me and that was that,” Scott said. “Just a way to give back to the city.”
Scott’s donation will take care of the 12-and-under and 14-and-under teams for two years. Everything from uniforms, basketballs, trophies, officials, and table staff will be paid for.
It’s a good feeling giving back but Scott said that’s not why he did it. He isn’t one for publicity and said that would have been the wrong motivation. He grew up playing basketball and understands the cost that come along with a summer program.
“I just feel like, be genuine, give back because it’s the right thing to do,” he said.
In his short time with the Sixers, Scott fell in love with Philadelphia and the fans fell in love with him. He has called Philly the best place he’s ever played basketball and made it clear that if possible he wanted to return next season.
But, when Scott made the donation there was no guarantee. It didn’t matter to Scott that he had only been in Philadelphia for a couple of months, or that he could possibly be leaving to join another team after his contract was up.
“I didn’t even think about that,” he said. “It’s just about the kids, it’s not about me.”
That the donation came from somebody that didn’t have long-standing Philadelphia ties was not a surprise to Bey. He said positivity is not something that relies on someone having roots in a community.
“When you’re doing positive things, it touches people,” Bey said.
Though not surprised, the feeling of having such a significant donation was huge for Bey and the PBYDBL.
“Words can’t even explain,” Bey said. “I’m just grateful for Mr. Mike Scott. It takes some of the pressure off me. I’m just glad to have some relief."