Sunday, 18 December 2011
Chit Chat with xL
Levon Kendall, otherwise Big L otherwise xL, shadows your life at 2.09 meters or 6 foot 10 1/4. Size is important when you are an international Basketballer. Yes he is a big guy, but meet him and you'll see his spirit is humble and graceful like his lay-ups. Levon and I both grew up in East Vancouver, I watched him on the courts in elementary school as he and hung off the hoops with his Osh Kosh truckers hat and wallet chain dangling about. He was 10 years old then. Now he is 27 and our whole neighbourhood has watched him as he competes around the world and at home in the sport he was born to play. Although for Big L life isn't only about hanging out on the court. Levon has his own blog where he displays his talents as an artist / poet / photographer, writes about sustainable environmental projects, cooking and exploring his inner demons. This year Levon also started The Music Tree that promotes culture in communities and supports environmental grass root projects.
The reason I am interviewing Levon is because he and his family have been behind Up With Hope since day one. Without the unconditional support of the Kendall's, UWHs goals and dreams would have remained only as what kept me awake at night. This is UWHs attempt at gratitude
Sorry hermano, I am not a sports writer. Could you brief people on your rap sheet as a B ball player?
I'll just lay it out quick and dirty cause sports rap sheets are hard to make interesting even for sports writers.
-3 consecutive B.C. Provincial Championships. 5 years at the University of Pittsburgh. 4 NCAA Tournament appearances and 3 Sweet 16 finishes. 100 caps for the Canadian National Team. Including a bronze at U21 World Championships, as well as one appearance at the World Championships with the senior team.
Growing up in East Vancouver is a source of pride for a lot of us. Why do you think that is?
Cause East Van is the best! In all seriousness I think their are so many good things about East Vancouver that it's hard not to feel proud. The mix of cultures, the food, all the amazing people, the sense of 'neighbourhood', and all in the heart of the best city to live in in the world.
You are a socially and environmentally conscious human being, what inspires you to make positive change?
I could probably dig for a bunch of other reasons but I think the best way of describing this desire is that it feels natural and feels good to do. Probably being so fortunate and coming from a solid upbringing has made me want to make that a reality for other people as well. I grew up exploring mountains, rivers, lakes and the pacific ocean so I have a natural desire to help preserve those things. Having once tree planting 'hippy' parents also taught me a lot about respecting the environment and people in general.
Your ideologies are different than most athletes. You and I have discussed ways to make sure life is always enjoyed. Take a crack at explaining how we keep the west coast spirit alive where ever we go.
All we have is Now, but the past has made us what we are today. For me I don't know of any other way to be. I grew up in a laid back environment, surrounded by grounded people who taught me by example how to be happy. I've learned a lot, and seen a lot since living away from Vancouver the last ten years but those ideologies are so deeply engrained that they never change. Having good friends back home who aren't afraid to chop you down when you get a little big headed also helps too.
What is your vision for The Music Tree?
Well... lots of big ideas and possibilities for The Music Tree. In a nutshell I hope to create a global network of musicians and bands that can all work together to support grass root projects like Up With Hope. The satisfaction of giving is such a powerful emotion that I hope we can inspire people to really invest their energy into simple acts of generosity. And what better way to do it than through music.
Hopefully one day, The Music Tree will be a name people recognize around the world for throwing amazing block parties and concerts that support inspiring projects in their backyards as well as far away lands.
You told me you are opening a Basketball camp. Would you like to elaborate on that?
Myself and a couple ex teammates of mine and working on starting a camp in vancouver during the summers. It's a chance to share some of our knowledge and experience with kids in our hometown. Teaching is one of the best gifts to give and im hoping i can help some kids realize their dreams the same way I did. keep your eyes peeled for Evolution Basketball Camps this summer.
Your parents have also had a huge impact on Up With Hope. We are not the only youth they have assisted either. To me they are icons in our community. What can you tell us about Simon and Pauline Kendall?
Where to start?? I feel so lucky to have been raised by them. Parenting is no easy task and I give them all the credit for finding a balance between raising me and letting me learn on my own as well. It's a little scary how much like my dad I am. Luckily for me my dad is awesome. He's managed to provide enough for my family doing what he loves, playing music. He's inspired me to learn the piano and enjoy all that music has to offer. He's stoic, loving, smart and always there to support me and nudge me to do more. A legend on the organ and keyboards and a true rockstar.
My mom is the perfect ying to my dads yang. She's a jack of all trades and not your typical 'stay at home mom'. I always have a hard time telling people exactly what it is my mom does. Can't I just say a bit of everything? She's a real estate baron, artist, saleswoman, renovator, project manager, gardener.... to name a few. Known by my friends for her bluntness and pancakes, she has her edge but is one of the kindest and most helpful person ever. I have never seen her refuse a chance to help anyone no matter what the situation. Whether its financially, with love, a job, a second chance or anything in between.
Your amazing career as an athlete has taken you around the world and back. What's a favourite memory of discovering a new place or culture?
Thats an unfair question. It's far too hard to pick one. I've had so many good times tromping around random towns with my teammates, getting lost, chasing girls in foreign languages and generally having fun that I couldn't pick any one. This summer I got to see the Iguazu Falls in Brazil. Along with the Grand Canyon it was the most amazing thing in nature I have ever seen. The size and beauty of it was almost too much to comprehend. Things like that make it an easy choice to put my time and effort into improving our impact on mother nature.
Best part about coming back to Canada?
Food, friends and zeee french. ok well maybe food, family and friends. I still to this day get goosebumps flying into Vancouver and when that crisp clean air hits your nose I know everything is alright.
Stay tuned for when Levon makes a visit to UWH in Kenya sometime next year.
Also check out this video called "Living The Dream" That him and I made when we were hanging out in Greece a couple years ago.