Phoenix Suns wing Kelly Oubre, in partnership with the NBPA, recently provided 20 scholarships to students in Arizona, Texas and Louisiana.
He recently spoke to HoopsHype about his involvement in the community as well as his excitement for the Suns to soon continue their season at Walt Disney World. You can watch the entire video streaming via YouTube:
You’ve recently gotten involved with some philanthropies and I’d love to hear a bit more about your efforts there and the scholarships that you’re providing for people.
Kelly Oubre.: It’s just a trying time in America right now and my whole objective in life, the things that make me feel good, it’s making other people happy and being able to lend a helping hand when I can. I’ve been doing this ever since I got into the league so it’s nothing new. But it’s just more close to home for me now because I actually have Dope Soul Foundation to back everything up. And the NBPA is donating as well and matching me and the Suns are putting forth an effort to match my energy as well. So it’s just amazing to uplift the lives of the people who are in the places that I’ve once lived or currently live in. So that’s just all I’m trying to do.
Tell me a bit more about the name Dope Soul.
KO: I was just living life trying to really find myself in this universe. I always knew I was different. I always knew I wasn’t like my normal peers or the regular basketball player. It resonated with me once I bought in of who I was. I’m a dope individual, no matter what you say about me. No matter if you read a book by its cover and you don’t like the book automatically, I’m still a dope individual, an intellectual individual and I like doing fun things. I want to wrap that into a community. But I think Dope Soul could be anybody who is different and wants to be unapologetically different. So I just want to reach out to people and let them know that they’re not alone.
Did you feel like the people that you were able to speak with are those dope souls that you’re talking about?
KO: One hundred percent. So I had to do Zoom calls with all the students that got scholarships this year since I couldn’t physically be there [becasuse of COVID-19]. Surprisingly, it went better than I expected. I got to really talk to those kids one-on-one whether they were at one area or they were all at home on the individual Zoom calls. I got to really talk to them and thank them, congratulate them, and to let them know that they’re not alone anymore. They have somebody to call upon if they need help in their journey in life. That’s pretty much an introduction to the family. Once you feel our energy and you feel our positivity on what we’re trying to do and you buy-in, then you’re one of us and it was beautiful to see. So yeah, that was a beautiful thing, man, to see those kids smile, cry, to show emotion.
Tell me a little bit about some of the ways that you believe in the next generation and things that you’ve seen from the generation.
KO: Yeah, man, very inspired. The younger generation, my generation, the generation one above me, we’re the future. So we have to continue to just cherish each other, uplift each other, stand by each other. That’s what’s going on right now. Everything going on in the universe is bringing us closer. My generation is leading the charge right now. So I couldn’t be more proud, man, and I just want to do whatever I can to utilize my platform and who I am and just the little that I can do to help anybody – that’s what I’m trying to do. So I hope I continue to grow my name and my brand so that I can help more and more people. That’s just my goal.
You’ve got some really cool merchandise as well. I’d love to hear a little bit about the design process for that.
KO: This says: The Soul Never Dies. These were just some samples that I made that I sent these out to some close friends in the area to just get the message out, getting the brand out. But we did a launch about three weeks ago of the e-commerce site store.dope-soul.net and it went really well. It was my first time opening this business and I was very nervous. It’s been a long time coming. But it was right, it was the right time. I had a lot of time to put my focus and my energy into thinking about how I want to come onto the scene. It’s been a great process so far and I’ve got to drop some “quarantine and chill” fits for people to just relax and be in the house and comfortable and just dripping. That was just my first drop. But everything that you see on the website now, we’re going to continue to grow, we’re going to continue to just expand and just reach for the stars. So we’re going to continue to grow as the universe grows.
You have attended some protests recently and you were out there to create change. What were some of your impressions and why you feel it’s so important for you, as a basketball player, to go out there and be a voice for your generation?
KO: It’s very important to speak out. I was having psychological warfare for two days before I made any action. I had to reach out to some people. I actually spoke to coach Monty Williams in detail about how I was feeling because he came out immediately with a very bold statement of how he was feeling and expressing his hurt and his pain. It really struck me deeply to want to follow my heart and say what was on my mind and I did that by stepping out on the streets with the in protesting for a little bit. I didn’t really walk. I just stood on the corner and had my signs with my family and we sent a message and it was very important to do that to get my voice out there. Obviously, everything going on in the world, everybody has their own sides. But you pick a side and you stay with it. So I was just trying to get out there and do my part, at least. “My Soul Has No Skin” was on my sign. It is simple, man. Everybody, we’re on this universe for a reason, man, there are no answers to why there is hate in the world. But all I could do is just continue to just follow love. And my soul has no skin. So I love those who have a soul and who love all, honestly. So that’s what it is.
I think that your team has really shown so much of that strength together. What has been your role in creating that?
KO: Man, honestly, I came in and I was blessed with the opportunity to come to Phoenix and play basketball, the game that I love. [Suns GM James Jones] blessed me by taking the chance on me after that whole trade with Washington and ever since then, I just tried to give all my energy and my love to the city of Phoenix and to that organization. All I did was just simple as that man, I didn’t go on there trying to be anybody but myself. The fans are amazing, they’ve gone through a lot. So it’s a lot of mixed emotions with the fan base with the players, but they show me constant love. I block out the hate and I just focus on the ones who are really loyal, down for the Valley Boyz and I ride for them. I really go out each and every night and I put my heart on the line for the organization. That’s all I can do. I didn’t come and try to change the culture, I didn’t come and try to be anybody but myself and I’m going to continue to try to grow my game and just continue to be the best leader that I can be. That’s all I can do. But I see a lot of potential in this team. And I want to continue to do my part.
Can you summarize some of the conversations that you’ve had with Monty Williams recently?
KO: He’s been through a lot in life. So I have the ultimate respect for him with any situation because he’s a proven leader. He made a bold move and let his voice be heard for pretty much his peers, his fellow coaches and his players and his kids. Man, it was very respectable. I can only pray to continue to just grow up and follow the Lord’s light. That’s what I was just asking him for guidance upon. I told him I felt down on myself because I hadn’t said anything and he was like, don’t do that. He knows where my heart is and my heart is in the right place. The message should be out to everybody. If you’re second-guessing yourself or you’re worried about what other people have to say about a message that you’re going to put out that’s in your heart, don’t think about other people, man. Think about the people who are close to your heart and who really care. We’re going to receive that message and be impacted by it. So that’s kind of what I got from that conversation.
What are some of the conversations you have with your teammates lately?
KO: Yeah, just excitement honestly. Uncertainty, obviously. It is a different time right now. We all talk very frequently and we’ve been away from each other for a while, man, and is it’s been uncertain times. We haven’t known anything about what’s going to happen in our future, playing basketball-wise. So now we do know and that we’re kind of just focused on the next step. We are getting ready to link back up and work and get back into rhythm and do we have to do. We have to continue to get better each and every day. We haven’t done anything yet. So our main goal should be to just lock in and just continue to just focus on getting better and coming back next year, better than ever.
How excited are you to be out there in Orlando with the team again and getting back into the swing of things? It’s going to be a once a lifetime opportunity to be on this campus.
KO: Godspeed, man. I don’t really know what to expect. But basketball is back again. It’s going to be very excited to get out there and hoop. So I’m trying to control each and every emotion as it comes. I’m not trying to jump the gun or go ahead and just be too excited. But it’s going to be basketball, man. Everybody’s going to be able to just do what they love to do and play and compete for that trophy so it’s going to be a blessing to see guys back out there.