Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

A Whoop-Dee-Damn-Do-Gooder

Posted by Phoenix Woman on November 24, 2008

NBA star Derrick Coleman saved his money and now, having retired, is using it to do good in his hometown of Detroit:

PLEXIGLASS BARRIERS had gone up along Linwood Street, encasing attendants at gas stations and clerks at liquor stores, sealing employees from harm but also human touch. Hard to slide a hug through a slot meant for credit cards, pens and pennies. After the racially charged riots of 1967, when the west side of Detroit burned, most of the remaining businesses installed bars, steel shutters and, of course, bullet-resistant glass, making every trip to the bodega feel like a prison visit.

Who could restore dignity to the neighborhood? Who could lift the spirits of residents, especially now, with the auto industry on empty? A renowned lazy ass.


There is neither plexiglass nor steel bars in the four stores he owns in Coleman’s Corner, a handsome strip mall of brick and stucco he opened last year, part of a $6 million (and counting) investment he has made into developing the first retail center on Linwood Street since the riots. So neighbors don’t get haircuts in their basements anymore; they gather at the Barber Lounge, where they can talk politics and watch football on the tube every Sunday. So teens don’t have to take two buses to a suburban mall for a job; they can walk a few blocks to punch a clock at Hungry Howie’s, the pizza franchise Coleman owns and Johnson manages.

Johnson was the one who winced when Coleman refused to raise prices as gas shot to $4 a gallon and the cost of food skyrocketed. He was the one who saw a 2% drop in the ledger after Coleman decided to offer a dollar slice of pizza from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. last summer. “Derrick remembered how, as kids, we’d take bottles in for a deposit,” Johnson says. “He wanted kids to be able to buy a slice with them. I’d tell him, ‘It’s costing us.’ And he’d say, ‘That’s O.K., school will be open soon. Then, we’ll end it.'”

Some of those same children held an ear of corn for the first time when Coleman, a student of urban agriculture, brought a weekly farmers’ market to a parking lot across from his mall. Who knew eating right didn’t include a Fruit Roll-Up? “And you wonder why we, as black people, have a high rate of diabetes and high blood pressure,” says Coleman, who hopes to ultimately own seven blocks in the area. He can talk green energy solutions, biofuels and the platform of his candidate for Detroit mayor, Dave Bing, the Hall of Fame guard and former Piston. Years ago, Bing built his manufacturing business in Detroit’s inner city. “He has been my father figure,” says Coleman, who stood next to Bing when he announced his candidacy last month. “I’m in his footsteps.”

Derrick Coleman was often criticized during his NBA career for being lazy because he didn’t confuse his career with his life. Turns out that this “lazy” man is working very hard to make his home town a better place.

3 Responses to “A Whoop-Dee-Damn-Do-Gooder”

  1. shpx.ohfu said

    Good to know Etan Thomas, another outspoken big man, has some company. Something good about the low post guys from SU, I guess.

  2. IR said

    Generally, just nice to be able to read about a “star” (whether athlete, movie, or otherwise) being notable for doing something downright decent. Seems like there are too few, but it may just be a false impression given the things that tend to get the most attention.

  3. Charles II said

    That’s a beautiful story, PW.

    Thanks for posting it.

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