It started with lunch money: Why Hornets' Kidd-Gilchrist feels the call for empathy

Rick Bonnell, The Charlotte Observer on

Published in Basketball

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- When Charlotte Hornets forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was a boy, he'd double-dip into his school lunch account.

It wasn't to buy himself an extra dessert. It was to make sure a classmate got something to eat.

This is how MKG was raised in New Jersey. He was pointed to service long before he became a prominent basketball player. He was taught empathy. He was reminded there is always enough to share.

So it was typical of how he conducts his life Tuesday, when Kidd-Gilchrist was at Dick's Sporting Goods at SouthPark, Christmas shopping with 10 children with the Partners for Parks after-school program. Each child received a $100 gift card.

Kidd-Gilchrist coaxed the children toward necessities -- shoes and clothes -- and taught them to consider thrift and value. When a kid was attracted to a pair of $80 sneakers, MKG showed him a $40 pair; he asked if the difference in the two sneakers was sufficient to spend most of the $100 on one item.

Kidd-Gilchrist can afford to buy most anything after signing a four-year, $52 million contract in the summer of 2015. But his priority has always been more about people than possessions. One of the first things he did, after the then-Bobcats drafted him second overall in 2012, was ask the team's help in finding a needy Charlotte family to adopt.


"That's where it comes from: a family of service, of Christian and sympathetic people. He was raised that way, so I wouldn't expect him to be any different," said his mother, Cindy Richardson. "He lost his dad at a very early age. (He was 2 when his father was shot to death).

"I started Michael doing community service when he was little. When he was 2, we would feed the homeless on Sunday. We adopted families for Thanksgiving and Christmas his whole life, so this is just an extension of his upbringing.

"It's not extraordinary to me. It's who he is."

Kidd-Gilchrist has always felt a sense of responsibility for others. As a freshman at Kentucky, he organized a "breakfast club," convincing new teammates to gather before dawn for weight-lifting and pick-up games before fall practices began. That Kentucky team won the 2012 national championship.


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