These days in Takoma Park, Md., Kevin Durant is all the rage. There's good reason for that, too: The hometown kid is a win away from the NBA Finals, and he has always made his suburban D.C. heritage a significant part of his identity (see the curly W Washington Nationals-style tattoo on his abdomen, among other indicators).
Still, Durant isn't the first NBA star to come out of Takoma Park, and now his forebear has come back to make his own impact in the community. As reported by Washington Post sister paper The Gazette, former Rockets and University of Maryland star Steve Francis returned to his hometown on Monday to dedicate the new basketball court which his Steve Francis Foundation paid to renovate.
According to the Gazette, the Steve Francis Foundation donated $70,000 to Montgomery County Parks to pay for the complete renovation of the Takoma-Piney Branch Local Park basketball courts and the construction of a handful of other top-notch facilities, including a skateboard park, volleyball court, playground and a pavilion dedicated to his late mother, who passed from cancer when Francis was just 18 years old.
Even if Francis has to take second billing among Takoma Park's favorite hoops-playing native sons, it was clear that the park dedication meant an enormous amount to him.
"To me, it's like 25 years coming. For me to see that was mind blowing," Francis told the Gazette. "Growing up out there, playing out there gave me so much.
"It's about the scenery, the trees, about everybody knowing that this is a family place. That's the feeling I want everybody to have, to be able to feel like this is a place you can come to be yourself."
Just as the pavilion is dedicated to Francis' mother, the basketball court itself is named after another important figure in the former NBA All-Star's life: Tony Langley, who was one of Francis' first coaches at the local Boys & Girls Club and Takoma Park Middle School.
Langley was among those at the dedication ceremony paying tribute to Francis, who said that the re-developed park was as positive a legacy as he could hope for.
"Most guys in the NBA, they take the traditional route," Francis said. "I was never a high school All-American. I didn't have those accolades. For myself, this is my accolade right here."