Teenage males across the country share the common dream of becoming rich and famous NBA stars, but unfortunately, only a small fraternity of young men will attain that ultimate goal. Twenty years ago, a kid from Beaumont, Texas, achieved his dream, and he shares his story in his memoir, “The Education of Kendrick Perkins.”
As a veteran of fourteen seasons, and the starting center for the 2008 NBA World Champion Boston Celtics, Kendrick Perkins gives us a unique view of his basketball journey. In his memoir, Perkins talks about his personal challenges as he traveled down his path to success.
He also highlights some of the historical obstacles the players he admired had to overcome. He speaks about Boston Celtics great Bill Russell playing on a team that was a dynasty, but Russell still had to experience segregation regulations.
In addition to Russell, Perkins also touched on the journey of another NBA all-time great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Prior to converting to Islam and changing his name, Kareem went by his birth name of Lew Alcindor. During the beginning and throughout his NBA career, Kareem was and still is an advocate for civil rights and social justice.
In his memoir, Perkins mentions the life lessons he learned from observing others, but he also speaks on the knowledge he absorbed from reading. For example, the book he read in high school about a young man named Bigger Thomas enlightened him on how he must be able to overcome self-destructive anger and violence.
Kendrick “Perk” Perkins’s journey to glory got off to a rough start in Beaumont. His father was a well-known basketball star at Lamar University, but he didn’t make it to the NBA. He signed on to play pro ball in New Zealand but removed himself from his son’s life when Kendrick was two years old. Tragedy struck three years later when Kendrick’s mother Ercell Minix life was cut short due to gun violence.
Kendrick was adopted by his grandparents, and he experienced a life of humble beginnings. His grandfather was a janitor, and his grandmother cleaned houses for $40 a week. They lived in a yellow house that was hot and cramped in the inside.
They raised chickens and ducks at their house, and each day chicken, duck, or fish that they caught found their way to the dinner plate. Young Kendrick had to walk around with shoes that had holes in the toe area, pants that were too short for his long legs, and sleeves too short for his long arms.
Despite living in poverty, Kendrick stayed focused. He was a student who viewed his education as a serious business. In addition to excelling in the classroom, he would prove to be an exceptional basketball player. Perkins traveled the AAU circuit, and he became a star at the high school level.
As a senior, Perkins led Ozen High to a record of 33-1 while averaging 27.5 points, 16.4 rebounds, and 7.8 blocked shots per game. Due to his grandparent’s financial situation, the 6 foot 10 Perkins decided to forgo college and enter the 2003 NBA Draft.
With the 27th pick in the draft, the Memphis Grizzlies selected Kendrick Perkins, but they immediately traded him to the Boston Celtics. Perkins was the defensive enforcer for the 2008 Boston Celtics championship team that consisted of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett.
After the Celtics traded him in 2011, Perkins played for the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Cleveland Cavaliers, the New Orleans Pelicans, and the Canton Charge of the NBA G-League. Once his playing days concluded in 2018, Perkins started his broadcasting career as a sports commentator and analyst for shows such as First Take, Sportscenter, Get Up, and NBA Today.
Sports/Entertainment journalist Vince D’Writer went one-on-one with Kendrick Perkins to talk about his basketball journey and his new release, “The Education of Kendrick Perkins.”
Vince: Describe your swagger. What makes Kendrick, Kendrick?
Kendrick: Being real, staying true to my roots in Beaumont, Texas, remembering the wisdom my grandfather passed on to me, understanding how my grandfather raised me, valuing my authenticity. That’s the foundation for everything I do. At the same time, I’m not afraid to learn, grow, and expand in new areas. I love taking risks and challenging myself.
Vince: You are a person who came from humble beginnings. When you received that first NBA check, what were some of the thoughts going through your mind?
Kendrick: Emotions, not thoughts! Pride. Happiness. Fear. Confusion. All of it. You have to imagine the intensity of being a poor kid from Beaumont, Texas, to the life of an NBA player in suburban Boston. In my book, I wanted to take the reader into this experience. That’s why I wrote the opening of the book as I did. It’s an intimate portrait of this precise moment. It’s one of my favorite parts of the book.
Vince: In the book, you said during your first couple of years in the NBA you lived off a budget of $3,500 a month. How did you do it?
Kendrick: Discipline. And great people around me. And no credit card! I knew I had to set limits for myself and create a structure to save and invest my earnings. Remember, the average NBA career is 3 or 4 years. I could have been done at 21 or 22 years old. Then what? I wasn’t used to having money anyway, so $3,500 seemed like big bucks to me. By the way, millions of Americans get by on less than that to this day.
Vince: Describe the feeling of winning an NBA championship.
Kendrick: There’s nothing like it. It’s euphoria. At the same time, it’s so big, it’s hard to absorb all of it right away. To be honest, I can’t remember a lot of it because it was so intense. I do remember the parade through Boston, though, sitting on one of those duck boats. That was when the full extent of it hit me. Tens of thousands of Boston Celtics fans were coming out to celebrate with us. Those fans love the game of basketball. They love their team, and they hadn’t had an NBA champion in the city since 1986. That’s an eternity for the Boston Celtics. We brought number 17.
Vince: After retiring from the NBA, how did the opportunity to join ESPN develop?
Kendrick: I loved writing about this part in the book. I started doing analysis of games as a way of showing off my knowledge to land an assistant coaching job. It started with Twitter, then shows started having me on as a guest. I did the Woj Pod and loved it. The more media I did, the more I started to like it, and I realized I was good at it, good at bringing a different kind of voice and perspective to the game of basketball. I could learn from Stephen A. Smith and others, but I wasn’t even going to be Stephen A. I needed to be Big Perk, and the combination of Perk with Stephen A. or Richard Jefferson is what brings the magic.
Vince: What made you decide to author “The Education of Kendrick Perkins?”
Kendrick: I wanted to tell my story in a way that could make an impact on important issues happening today. There are so many challenges facing our country and the Black community. Racism is on the rise and being normalized. There is a backlash against Black history, against the truth in general. Negative stereotypes continue to define people. To overcome these challenges, we need to know our history and take control of our stories. We need to reshape narratives. We need to challenge assumptions and assert different ideas and visions. My story is unique. It is also a story I share with everyone who reads it. We share a history. We share a space in this world.
Vince: In your book, you tied historical events to your life journey. Was that the goal in regard to the format of the memoir?
Kendrick: If my co-author and I were going to produce a different type of sports book, one that entertains, challenges, and educates the reader, we had to be committed to confronting topics in a deep way. We had to be okay with breaking the rules of the typical sports memoir to achieve these higher goals. I had to push myself to talk candidly about hard topics: trauma, mental health, anger, and depression. No outside voices were going to dictate what we could write about and how we were supposed to write it. We’re not going to produce a change in ourselves or the world by playing by an old set of rules.
Vince: How can your fans and book readers in general, purchase your memoir “The Education of Kendrick Perkins?”
Kendrick: Go to educationofkendrickperkins.com and click on the link to one of the online booksellers. Go to your local bookstore and grab a copy.