FLINT, MI – Being branded as a bust never made sense to Kelvin Torbert.
2001 Mr. Basketball and McDonald’s All-American had to travel the world and earn millions of dollars as a young black man from Vehicle City.
His career might not have figured out how many had imagined him running the track Tuesday and Friday nights in the gym at Flint Northwestern High School, but that does not mean Torbert was not successful.
In his upcoming autobiography “All In: The Kelvin Torbert Story,” told by Flint native and ESPN reporter Eric Woodyard, Torbert recounts his narrative.
“I want to tell it all,” Torbert said. “We’ll put it all out there.”
Torbert used to pack gyms all over the Flint area with his basketball talent.
From 1997 to 2001, Torbert rose from being the best player on his team to being the best player in the state, if not the entire country.
By his senior year, he was considered the best shooting guard in the class in 2001. Recruits at the highest level of college basketball came to see him perform.
Renowned Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski stepped his legs into Flint to watch him play. NBA stars from Allen Iverson to Jason Richardson showed up at Flint to run at Northwestern’s gym, Woodyard said.
The early success yielded community expectations that could have been too high for an 18-year-old who had just moved to East Lansing to play for Michigan State.
After four years with the Spartans, Torbert went without a draft in 2005 and had a few sprints with NBA teams up until next season, but eventually signed with a French team.
All the while, Torbert was in a difficult situation with the people closest to him.
His father, Climmie Torbert, who worked for General Motors for almost 40 years, became seriously ill with kidney disease and died when his Kelvin was 22.
Torbert had already lost his mother, Florine “Penny” Green, when he was just five years old to breast cancer.
The pages of the new book describe the highest and lowest levels of overcoming depression after the death of his parents as a child and young adult, until the present day when Torbert is a father and a university graduate.
While Torbert’s journey has taken him around the world, the book ultimately has a single message.
“If you can do it in Flint, you can do it anywhere,” Torbert told MLive-The Flint Journal on Thursday, April 7 inside the Northwestern training center.
It is up to you to find your purpose and succeed in ways you might not have imagined, he added.
“This book is a publication,” Torbert said.
Along with telling his story from his perspective, Woodyard and Torbert agreed that there is a historical aspect to Torbert’s story.
Children in Flint should know his history and the history of the city, so the book is written with that perspective in mind.
“All In” addresses some harsh truths about Torbert’s life: his battle with depression, his life abroad, and the death of his parents at an early age.
He said he hopes that by telling his story, it inspires others to be emotionally charged and channel their emotions into something amazing – in the same way he did.
Torbert, 38, used to get angry at other high school players because they saw their parents were in the stands and his father could not be there.
“If I played that kid, I would tear him to pieces,” Torbert said, adding, “It’s OK to express yourself. It’s OK to cry. It’s OK to be frustrated and get angry. It’s about what you do with it. ”
Woodyard, a former sports reporter for MLive-The Flint Journal, calls himself a Flint historian.
He tells his 8-year-old son, Ethan, the stories of Flint’s best basketball because “If you do not know your story, you can not move on.”
Woodyard said the years-long journey of telling Torbert’s story has helped him as a journalist.
“If I have the opportunity to document the story, I want to make sure it’s done right. Especially in my community, I want to make sure it’s done right,” he said.
Torbert and Woodyard will hold a panel discussion and book signing event at 7pm Saturday, April 9 at the Comma Bookstore & Social Hub, located at 132 W. 2nd St., in downtown Flint.
Patrick Hayes, editor of “All In”, will moderate a discussion between Torbert, Woodyard and James Thigpen Jr., who designed the book’s cover.
The first publicly released copies of the book will be available for purchase at that time.
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