Tarik Black returned to Memphis a few days after his most successful NBA season Black and announced the Tarik Black Foundation and the inaugural Transformation50 Basketball & Life Skills Camp.
Long before he became the first Memphis men’s basketball in recent memory to transfer to Kansas, Tarik Black had two experiences that ensured he would eventually come back to his hometown.
The first was in 2007, when Magic Johnson came to Memphis and accepted a Freedom Award at the National Civil Rights Museum. Black still remembers Johnson’s speech vividly because the NBA Hall of Famer insisted basketball never defined him, that “he used it as a platform to give back.”
Then a few years later, when Black and his mom were late for church one Sunday, she elected to instead drive the Ridgeway High School product around the city. They went to south Memphis and north Memphis and everywhere in between, and Judith Moore’s message that day stuck with Black.
“Look at what we’re seeing right now riding around,” Black recalled during an interview Saturday. “These people need help. This is what your city looks like.”
It served as the initial impetus for Black’s return to Memphis this week, only a few days removed from the end of his most successful NBA season to date with the Los Angeles Lakers. On Tuesday afternoon, Black will formally announce the formation of the Tarik Black Foundation and the inaugural Transformation50 Basketball & Life Skills Camp for underprivileged inner city youth in Memphis during a 3:30 p.m. news conference at Streets Ministries on Vance Ave.
The camp, which will be free for 50 children of varying ages and skill levels based on an application process, is the first step in Black’s dream to give back to Memphis. He graduated from University of Memphis in 2013 with an undergraduate degree in organizational leadership and an emphasis on the non-profit sector. He also interned one summer with Ken Bennett and Streets Ministries, and hopes to have a similar impact on the city.
Black’s perspective changed for good once he elected to seek a graduate transfer at Kansas following the 2012-13 season. Though the decision proved unpopular with Tigers’ fans at the time, Black feels the experience of leaving home was essential for his personal growth. After thriving with the Jayhawks for one season, he landed with the Houston Rockets as an undrafted free agent and eventually signed with the Lakers in the middle of the 2014-15 season.
This past year, Black appeared in a career-high 67 games and averaged 5.7 points and 5.1 rebounds. He has a non-guaranteed year remaining on his contract and the Lakers have until July 4th to pick up that option. In the meantime, he’ll be exploring how to best serve Memphis through this new foundation.
“The mission is to provide life skills to inner city youth so they can come back and better their own communities,” said Black, noting the lessons he hopes to instill could be as simple as proper etiquette and writing a resume or as complex as figuring out the tax code.
“In the bigger picture, we want to run programs where we can take kids out of Memphis so they can see a different city. It opened my eyes that in Memphis I didn’t get to quite learn these things because I wasn’t around these people. We have people here that are very affluent but how often do we see them in the city? How often do they show their faces? How often do they teach us things and give back and reach out? I feel obligated to reach out and to give back and to take everything I’ve learned to give back and teach that.”
Black’s relationship with Memphis was awkward for a time. He still remembers being booed during his first NBA appearance at FedExForum. He was, after all, a Memphian who chose to leave Memphis following an NCAA tournament appearance, “and that caused some controversy,” Black admitted.
His return to town also comes just more than a week after brothers Dedric and K.J. Lawson followed in Black’s footsteps and announced their transfer from Memphis to Kansas. Black said he communicated with Dedric Lawson in recent weeks, particularly once the decision to join the Jayhawks had been made, in order to prepare Lawson for what lies ahead, both here in Memphis and in the plains of Lawrence, Kan.
Black thought about all those experiences since arriving in Memphis ahead of Easter weekend, just 24 hours after an exit interview with Lakers Coach Luke Walton, General Manager Rob Pelinka and Johnson, the basketball legend who initially inspired this latest endeavor. During that meeting, Black talked about how he had established a professional brand built on rebounding, defense and energy.
It’s a style of play that he first showed off in Memphis as a sought-after recruit, but Black knows he could not have delivered this sort of pitch a few years ago when he left the Tigers. Now, he hopes others in the community can learn from that maturation process.
“Maybe going to the university at that time wasn’t right for me, but at the same token, I wasn’t quite equipped to handle the pressures and things that came with the situation I walked into,” Black said. “My road has been kind of bumpy because there’s some things I didn’t understand. If I had somebody that came in, who had learned so much and could come back and teach me something, I would have really appreciated it.”