Derek Anderson Takes Kindness Off the Court

Of course there will be a basketball court at the Derek Anderson Stamina Academy. After all, Anderson’s stamina and skills were well known on the courts at Doss High School and the University of Kentucky, and he had an 11-year career in the NBA. He won championships both with the Wildcats and the Miami Heat.

But the blueprint for the Stamina Academy, which Anderson plans to open in Louisville in about two years, shows that the facility also will have classrooms, a kitchen and areas for cultural enrichment. The grounds will be blanketed by an urban garden.

It will be a place for young people in the fifth grade and up to “have fun but also to learn life skills,” Anderson describes. They’ll learn such day-to-day tasks as “how to cook, how to wash clothes and how to manage money,” but they’ll also learn about respect, self-confidence, self-motivation and “how acts of kindness toward others can help them reach success.”

After his NBA career, Anderson has found success in a range of fields. He’s an author, philanthropist, motivational speaker, screenwriter and film producer. He’s lived for years in Atlanta and Los Angeles, but now, as of four months ago, he’s back in Louisville, joining his fiancée Ashley Miller.

 

He said he came back because he has family in Louisville and because he realized his hometown “has been struggling with a lot of issues,” including such social strife as gangs, violence, poverty and racial tensions. “Everyone is so divided now,” he says.

Anderson came back to bring people together. He came back to give back – to build the Stamina Academy.

He’s going to host an Acts of Kindness Gala for it on October 14 at the Muhammad Ali Center. He’ll explain how the programs that the academy offers at-risk youth will be based on the philosophies outlined in his 2013 book “Stamina: Don’t Run Out of Breath Before You Win.”

It’s a book about overcoming hardship, a blueprint for personal success no matter what obstacles you face. It’s Anderson’s own story, and it includes the tough lessons he learned early in life.

From Homelessness to the NBA Championship

“I was abandoned by my parents when I was very young,” he says. Anderson then moved around from house to house, staying with various friends and relatives, even living in an empty apartment for a while when he was 11.

He found some solace in writing. Anderson carried a little notebook in which he’d write his thoughts and wishes, such as “I wish I could see my parents” and “I wish I had more to eat.”

While some of his peers got into various types of trouble, he kept himself busy with part-time jobs and sports. He idolized Muhammad Ali, who grew up just a few streets away, and Anderson claims he’s always been guided by one of the boxing legend’s philosophies: “I am an ordinary man who worked hard to develop the talent I was given. I believed in myself, and I believe in the goodness of others.”

Anderson took boxing lessons when he was 13, but he made a name for himself on the court instead of in the ring. He was a Kentucky High School Basketball All-Star and was recognized as the best player in the sixth region. He also was elected senior class president at Doss and achieved a 3.7 GPA.

In 1992, he received a basketball scholarship from Ohio State University, where he suffered an ACL tear in his left knee. After two years, he transferred to UK to play for Rick Pitino. Anderson received pre-season All-American honors and was part of the NCAA National Championship team in 1996.

 

As a UK senior, he injured his right knee with an ACL tear. He worked hard to be ready for the NCAA tournament that year, but Pitino decided not to play him to protect his future career. Still, Anderson made history as the only player to score without playing even one second in the tournament because Pitino put him in to shoot two technical fouls during the Final Four game.

In 1997, he was selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers as the 13th overall pick in the NBA Draft. He also was picked by Michael Jordan to have his own signature shoe.

One of the first things Anderson did with the money he started making in the pros was to found the Derek Anderson Foundation with the mission of “assisting abused women and children as well as feeding and supplying underprivileged children.”

He started playing for the L.A. Clippers in 1999 and was ranked seventh in the NBA in free throw percentage (.877) during the 1999-2000 season. He also played for the Portland Trail Blazers, Houston Rockets and Charlotte Bobcats. Anderson was on the Miami Heat team that won the 2005-06 championship.

Becoming an Entrepreneur

After his basketball career, Anderson launched several entrepreneurial ventures. For instance, in 2008, he founded the production company Loyalty Media Group (L.M.G.). It partners with other production companies and provides the financial and technical infrastructure needed to develop independent feature films across a range of genres, including comedies and crime/action movies. L.M.G. is currently working on a feature film version of “Stamina.”

The book version of “Stamina” has received overwhelmingly positive reviews on Amazon. One reader says, “I am not a sports fan and had never heard of Derek until I saw him speak at a fundraiser for The Healing Place in Louisville. He was very charming and engaging so I bought the book. It is a quick read and definitely a way to gain perspective as most of us will never experience anything close to the lows and highs that Derek has. You can add this [book] to your motivation collection.”

On the back of “Stamina,” a blurb from Michael Jordon also endorses Anderson’s motivation and perseverance: “I believed in Derek not just for his talent but because of his positive attitude when facing adversity. He still has that drive after basketball. That’s why he is a champion.”

Now Anderson wants to help others become champions through his Stamina Foundation, which eventually will sponsor several educational programs and events, but its first major project will be the academy.

The Power of Kindness

Anderson says the Stamina Academy will help young people learn that kindness is critical to the type of success that provides genuine personal fulfillment. He turned the acronym for Acts of Kindness into a logo and printed A.O.K. t-shirts and backpacks so he could promote kindness at his basketball camps, where he often gave young people gift cards with the stipulation that they had to give one to someone else.

He encouraged his camp attendees to do daily A.O.K., and he asks everyone to post photos and videos of their kind acts on Facebook and his other social media channels. Now, he’s even planning to launch A.O.K.-branded gift cards.

No matter where people come from, what they’ve been through or what they’ve achieved, “the common denominator in all our lives should be kindness,” Anderson says. “To be kind is the best type of success, and through kindness we will be able to change our community from within.

“We need to begin creating a new culture, where being kind to others is a way of life. Since launching the Stamina initiative, I’m getting calls from all over the world asking how they can help, and soon we’ll be able to announce a few programs that will benefit not only Louisville but the state and the region. I want to create a model that can be developed all over the world.”

To help finance the academy, Anderson is seeking donors both locally and nationally. The facility will include a Wall of Impact built from bricks sponsored by organizations and individuals.

Tickets for the Stamina Foundation’s A.O.K. Gala on October 14 are $150 for individuals and $250 for couples. It’s a black-tie-optional event that will start with a 7 p.m. meet and greet attended by former UK, UofL and NBA players and coaches. Guests also will be able to tour the Muhammad Ali Center and its new exhibits. Dinner will begin at 8 p.m., and Anderson and his Stamina team will recognize a community leader with the Muhammad Ali Award as well as the Derek L. Anderson Acts of Kindness Award. You can reserve gala tickets and learn more about the Stamina Academy at staminafd.com.

Of course, the academy’s basketball court will attract young people with hoop dreams who want to learn the game from a big name like Anderson, but they’ll ultimately learn how to make other dreams come true. They’ll learn how to make a name for themselves through respect for others, self-motivation and, like Anderson, the stamina to persevere when life gets tough. VT

Visit derekandersonworks.com, facebook.com/staminafoundation, staminaone.com for more information on the production company and Anderson’s other ventures.

  • Elaine Osbourne Olges

    We are looking for a service project for a group of 8th graders for a confirmation project at school. Is there something we could do to help this organization? Elaine Olges