LONG DISTANCE DEVOTION: SOUTH KOREAN NATIVE GIVING TO THE HIVE
SBP students benefitting from generosity of Nets season-ticket holder
The only Asian student in his Canadian high school, Korean-born Kiwook Kim became passionate about basketball initially as a way to fit in. Although he never really played the game, he absorbed everything he could about the game beginning in ninth grade.
Kim also had dreams of one day attending an NBA game.
Fast forward to a little more than a decade ago. Working as an executive, commuting to New York from his home in Edgewater N.J., Kim decided to become a season ticket holder for the New Jersey Nets. He bought a one-seat subscription in the second row, behind the visitors’ bench for every Nets game.
“I sat by myself in these great seats,” he said. “I got to know the other fans, almost like a family.”
After the first season however, he decided to return to Korea but, not wanting to give up his prized tickets, he thought maybe he could donate them – to some New Jersey high school kids who loved basketball as much as he did.
“I didn’t realize it so clearly when I was deciding to do it, but I was one of those kids who would have loved to go to an NBA game and couldn’t,“ said Kim. “It hit me that these kids might be in the same shoes as I was.”
So he looked up high schools with quality sports teams and found St. Benedict’s. Kim came to The Hive, met Assistant Headmaster Mike Scanlan, and together, they hatched a plan. Kim would donate two season tickets – also in the second row, behind the visitors’ bench – for 12 Nets games. The tickets came with access to the best food in the arena and they would go to students who demonstrated some positive behavior or academic change, or were just really hard workers – like Kim himself had been.
At first, the kids went to the Izod Center in East Rutherford, often accompanied by Mike Scanlan. When the Nets moved to the Prudential Center here in Newark, kids could walk to the arena. Now they go to the Barclays Center to the Nets new home in Brooklyn and often sit next to celebrities or politicians.
Kim said he only realized how similar he was to the students who received the tickets when they wrote thank you emails to him. He saved the emails and one is now hanging in his office.
About two years ago, when Kim almost ended his relationship with the Nets, the saved thank you emails from the St. Benedict’s students convinced him to keep buying the season tickets. “They remind me why I am doing this.”
Kim said falling in love with basketball changed his life. His expertise helped him make friends first in high school and later all over the world.
“When I wear my basketball gear in airports, the security guys talk to me about the Nets,” he said. “You can strike up a conversation anywhere.”
Kim visits the United States about once a year. He communicates with the Nets owner who is aware of his gift to the St. Benedict’s students.
“I’m living through the kids who go to the games because I can’t go,” he laughed.
William Adedeji, a senior, went to a Nets/Detroit Pistons game last year courtesy of Kim. Mike Scanlan selected Adedeji because of his dogged effort to raise his inadequate grades.
“I never went to an NBA game before. Scanlan rewarded me and he took me,” said Adedeji, “We had courtside seats. It was great.”
Just what Kiwook Kim had envisioned.
--By Noreen Connolly