Flint, Michigan, is infamously synonymous with rancid water and high crime. Though, that isn’t its citizens’ fault. However, that’s another story better left to other publications.
Flint also reminds people of basketball. The city was home to high school basketball powerhouses for decades. Three of its players, Charlie Bell, Mateen Cleaves and Morris Peterson — collectively referred to as the Flintstones — led Michigan State to the 2000 NCAA Championship.
Basketball or bad water, Flint’s residents care about their conurbation. In particular, one native son and guardsman, Staff Sgt. Kevin Grayden.
“I’m a public servant,” Grayden told Reserve & National Guard Magazine. “I’m blessed to be in the position I’m in. I just want to be able to give back to my community.”
The Flint firefighter is a recruiter for the Army National Guard and was a key volunteer in a recent community event.
“It was a very humbling experience … it was an amazing event,” he said. “We had over 10,000 spectators and players over the two-day tournament.”
The two-day Gus Macker 3-on-3 basketball tournament comprised a wide range of age brackets and skill levels. It also included a three-point shootout and slam dunk contest.
The Sylvester Broome Empowerment Village — a Flint leadership development center for youth — hosted the Gus Macker tournament, Grayden said. It had been nearly 20 years since the Gus Macker had made an appearance in Flint.
The Gus Macker — named after its originator — is a traveling 3-on-3 basketball tournament that travels nationally and is designed for people of all ages and abilities.
The tournament proceeds will help construct a multi-faceted sports facility for Flint residents.
“This is going to be a huge sports complex for any and every sport,” Grayden said. “So they’re going to have basketball courts … it’s going to be a huge indoor stadium … that’s going to allow the youth and people in the community to just come out and take part in sports, take part in educational activities.”
Grayden joined the Army National Guard in 2013 and volunteered to go overseas. He got his wish in 2015 just as the fire department was preparing to onboard him. They held his spot until he returned from serving his country.
Grayden is drawn to service. Whether it’s innate or a result of life experiences, he feels certain that it’s the right career fit.
“I gotta family history that wasn’t the best, so I had to do something to change the dynamic — I actually had a daughter when I was 18 — for her and my little brother and my nieces, nephews,” he said. “I grew up seeing things that I probably shouldn’t have seen at a young age, and it kind of pulled me in the direction of just being able to help people, some form of public safety.”
Grayden competed in the 3-on-3 at the tournament but was also the event’s slam-dunk champion.
“It’s really funny because I did not plan on getting in that game at all.”
He was breaking down an obstacle course when an announcement informed the crowd that a contestant hadn’t shown up for the slam dunk competition. Another person was needed. Otherwise, it would have to be canceled. Grayden answered the call.
He performed second in the first round dunk rotation and won in the second round. His round-two dunks were epic.
“I threw it off the backboard jumped over Kevin Mays (Marketing Director for SBEV and owner of Flint United Semipro basketball team) in a chair 2 hands,” he wrote in an email to Reserve & Guard.
His next dunk was two-handed off the glass. Grayden donated his prize money to the runner-up.
“I’m blessed to be in a position where I am, so … I try to be a blessing for him as well.”Read comments