Jayson Tatum remembers how he felt when he bought a house for the first time.

“It didn’t seem real,” said the Boston Celtics power forward, a five-time NBA All-Star who will start Sunday in the Eastern Conference in this year’s All-Star Game.

Tatum told The Associated Press in an interview that he wants to help other people in his hometown of St. Louis get that feeling and buy their own homes. He said financial services company SoFi has donated $1 million to the Jayson Tatum Foundation to help achieve it.

The donation announced Tuesday will establish the SoFi Generational Wealth Fund at the foundation, which will provide funds to homebuyers to help with down payments.

“I can’t emphasize enough how excited I am to know how many lives and families we can impact,” Tatum said. “And I can only imagine how much this would have impacted me and my mother growing up.”

Tatum, 25, was raised by his mother, Brandy Cole-Barnes, who was 19 when he was born.

“My mom and I didn’t know about investments or savings accounts when we were little. But obviously when I got to the NBA and started making money, we had to ask questions and learn about things,” Tatum said. “And it was always important to me, even when I was younger. “I just knew I wanted to give back and help people who looked like me and grew up like me.”

Established in 2017, the same year he was drafted by the Celtics, Tatum’s nonprofit hosts toy drives, back-to-school giveaways and basketball camps in St. Louis. It also offers scholarships to St. Louis high school students along with tutoring. The new fund is part of a program that will support single-parent families, an idea that Tatum said he had had for a long time and that he was waiting to find the right time to launch it.

“It’s about making sure you’re with the right people,” Tatum said of his philanthropic work, which he sees as much more than donating money.

“I always come back to St. Louis as much as I can, as often as I can, especially in the summer,” Tatum said. “I just know the impact I can have on my community by being there, by being present.”

SoFi will contribute funds for three to five years, and the foundation will determine how to select participants, who are not required to obtain a mortgage through SoFi. However, SoFi will offer all participants access to financial advisory services and tools.

With his team leading the Eastern Conference and the All-Star Game on Sunday, Tatum said it seemed like the perfect time to draw attention to financial literacy and generational wealth.

“Buying a home is an important milestone, representing stability, security and investment — these are things we believe everyone deserves a chance to achieve on their financial journey,” SoFi CEO Anthony Noto said in a statement. The company also announced a partnership with the NBA to be its official banking partner and will sponsor the SoFi NBA Play-in tournament in April.

Jason Belinkie, executive director of the nonprofit Athletes for Hope, which advises athletes who want to give back, said they suggest athletes start by working with existing organizations to deepen their understanding of community needs.

“Similar to visualizing your journey in your sport and following these different steps to achieve your goals, you should think about your philanthropy in the same way,” Belinkie said.

Starting a new nonprofit has risks that many athletes don’t anticipate, said Andrew Morton, an attorney and partner at Handler Thayer who leads its sports and entertainment philanthropy practice. He advises athletes to work through a fiscal sponsor and said that even athletes without a huge platform or millions to donate can make a big difference if they align their goals with their reach.

“If you are very well known and have a huge platform, you should be addressing macroeconomic issues like social justice, homelessness or hunger,” Morton said. “If you’re a backup left tackle, you should raise money to put books in your town library or buy sports equipment for your high school.”

Tatum said part of his goal with this initiative is to change the narrative around his hometown.

“There are some really good people in St. Louis, people who are really trying to help change your life and your situation. And it’s hard,” Tatum said. “And no one was successful on their own. “All of us at some point along the way needed help or assistance from someone we knew or didn’t know.”


Associated Press coverage of philanthropy and nonprofits is supported through AP’s collaboration with The Conversation US, with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. The AP is solely responsible for this content. For all of AP’s philanthropy coverage, visit https://apnews.com/hub/philanthropy.

By Sam