by Dan Williamson
For those who like hoops help in this tough time is coming from a caring 12-year-old boy named Nathan Easty. Basketball is a big deal to this seventh grader who lives in Duluth, Minn. He’s a fan of the Minnesota Timberwolves and calls Dallas Mavericks forward/guard Luka Donˇci´c his favorite player.
Nathan’s whole family knows a thing or two about jump shots. He’s the youngest of five brothers who’ve participated in the Duluth Corps’ Rookie Basketball Association (RBA) where their dad Jason is a coach. The family has been part of RBA since 2006.
“I started playing in first grade,” Nathan said. “I wanted to do what my older brothers did and that influenced me to play and be good. I am a shooting guard and I pass as often as I can.”
The pandemic has made it hard for Nathan and other kids to play as often as they’d like. With that in mind, Nathan found a way to give an “alley-oop” of sorts. After learning some kids couldn’t afford to join him on the court, Nathan and his mother, Amanda, hatched a plan to sell the family’s old bicycles and donate the proceeds.
Nathan’s vision, “Bikes for Basketball,” was to raise funds for RBA scholarships. RBA, which is for children between kindergarten and eighth grade, just celebrated its thirty-second year—the biggest yet with 511 kids, 98 volunteer coaches and 52 teams. While children develop on-court skills, they also learn life lessons, team building and sportsmanship.
Over the years many RBA players have gone on to suit up on big stages. Among them, alums Anders and Bjorn Broman, numbers 1 and 2, respectively, on Minnesota’s alltime high school career scoring list and members of the Winthrop Men’s Basketball Team which played in March Madness in 2017 and reached the NCAA Division One Men’s Tournament.
While March Madness might not be in everyone’s future, Nathan would like for all kids to be able to play. His family had 12 bikes of their own to sell and other people contributed bikes, shoes and cash in a response to a social media request. The project really took off with coverage from local TV stations, and Nathan and his mom presented the corps with $500—10 times his original goal.
“I think Nathan’s ability to put others first is extraordinary,” said Kris Mallett, RBA coordinator.
Details for the next RBA season are still being worked out so that kids can return to play in a safe way during the pandemic. But when the dribbles and layups resume, there will be some happy hoopsters thanks to Nathan’s hard work, generosity and kind heart.