From L.A. to Iowa, Korver learned what it means to give back
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Kyle Korver, left, defends Courtney Lee during the Bulls' victory over the Houston Rockets last week.
Kyle Korver spent his formative years near L.A., but also learned important basketball lessons in Pella, Iowa.
Bulls guard Kyle Korver seems to be a product of his small Central Iowa hometown. He's well-spoken, devoted to charity work and spends hours perfecting a fundamentally sound jump shot.
Korver is from Pella, Iowa, where his father is a church pastor. Pella is a Dutch-influenced town of roughly 10,000 residents, located 40 miles southeast of Des Moines, and yes, it is home to the window company of the same name.
There's just one problem with this generalization: Ashton Kutcher spent more time in Iowa growing up than Korver did.
Korver didn't move to Pella until he was in sixth grade. Most of his formative years were spent in Paramount, Calif., a Los Angeles suburb. So with the Bulls spending three off-days in L.A. before battling the Lakers on Tuesday, Korver is back home, in a way.
Now, Paramount might have been named after a movie studio, but no one would consider it a glamorous destination (outside of being birthplace of the Zamboni). The city is located between Compton and Downey on L.A.'s southeast side.
Korver's father and grandfather were dedicated to inner-city ministries, which made Paramount a logical destination. Kevin Korver, Kyle's father, was 16 when his family moved to California in 1971 to work at the Emmanuel Reformed Church. In fact, they left a church at 84th and Damen on the South Side of Chicago to move to Paramount.
For someone who is dedicated to making the world a better place, moving to a city with plenty of room for improvement makes perfect sense.
"I remember going out on the weekend and painting over graffiti," Kyle Korver said. "That's how we'd spend our weekends."
The idea, Kevin explained, was to go out with a small army of volunteers and repaint some of the nastiest homes in the neighborhoods. If the ugliest houses on the block started to look good, the neighbors often began to take more pride in the appearance of their homes.
"The city would supply all the materials and we would bring in 300 volunteers," Kevin Korver said. "On a typical Saturday, we would paint 15 to 20 homes in one morning, pull out all the trash."
The church's "Lookin' Good" program was so successful, it earned a "Thousand Points of Light" Award and invitation to visit the White House from President George H.W. Bush.
But what about the kids? Kyle is the oldest of four boys, who all played Division I basketball. But the four Korvers are spread out over 10 years, so Kyle wasn't particularly close with his brothers growing up.
Living in Paramount posed some problems, but Kyle didn't mind.
"The basketball courts at the church were the nicest hoops in town, so that's where I spent most of my free time," Kyle said. "I had one friend who lived one block away and another friend three blocks away. That's as far as I was allowed to roam on my own."
Korver loved watching the Lakers on television and made it to one Clippers game at the Sports Arena. Then in 1992, his parents realized it was time for a change.
Korver's parents, Kevin and Laine, met while playing basketball at Central College in Pella. Laine grew up in a nearby town. The family decided to move not long after the riots in '92, but Kevin said that was not the reason they left Los Angeles.
"In '92, my wife and I felt the Lord directing us to Iowa," Kevin Korver said. "It didn't make sense to me then, but it does now.
"We loved living in Paramount as a family. There were some challenges to it, but there were a lot of great things."
Kyle admits kicking and screaming all the way to Iowa, then experiencing plenty of culture shock, especially when his first day of school was canceled by a snowstorm.
But then, Korver's uncle coached his seventh grade basketball team and he credits that union for pushing him on a path to Creighton University and eventually the NBA.
"I had been playing mostly on the playgrounds in Paramount," Kyle said. "He took a lot of the junk out of my game, made me focus on fundamentals. I would say moving to Iowa turned out to be the best thing for my basketball career."
Growing up with a focus on community service stuck with Korver. When his NBA career began in Philadelphia, he started an organization, which still exists, to help underprivileged kids in the city. When he moved to Utah, he made building handicapped ramps for families in need a top priority. His Seer clothing line was established to raise funds for his charitable pursuits.
"As a minister, Christian and father, I'm very proud of that generosity," Kevin Korver said.
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