Michael Kidd-Gilchrist Speaks to Kids Struggling with Speech Impediment He’s Had Since Youth
A week after the Charlotte community rallied around NBA All-Star Weekend, local kids and their parents came together for an intimate camp hosted by Hornets veteran Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
But it wasn’t an ordinary NBA player-hosted event with the sounds of dribbling basketballs. This one, Camp SAY (Stuttering Association for the Young), was a relaxed, private gathering at The Ritz-Carlton in downtown Charlotte for Michael and a select group of kids to feel comfortable sharing their voices together. See, for Michael and the young attendees, they have struggled for years with speech impediments.
Michael himself has made tremendous strides with his stutter. He even showed the confidence to speak to the entire room, opening up about his obstacle. After the event, MKG—who’s also worked with the National Stuttering Association—chatted further with CloseUp360 by phone about his work on Sunday and his journey through his own speech impediment.
(The interview has been edited for clarity and length.)
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with the kids at Camp Say in Charlotte. (Zach Lamb)
CloseUp360: Why did you feel like now was the time to hold an event like this?
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist: It’s time to make a difference. It’s a new year. I wanted to start off the new year with a bang, and experiencing new things and see how far I can take my impact. It’s not just me that’s living through stuttering—pretty much everybody else.
CU360: Why do you think an event like this is important for kids with a stutter?
MKG: I think it’s a confidence thing. If I can do it, anyone can do it. I want to give them hope when it comes to a lot of things. If I can do that then I’m gonna do that every step of the way.
CU360: What was the event like? Can you share some memorable moments?
MKG: There were a lot of smiles, laughs and even tears. If I can make an impact then I definitely will. We talked about a lot of situations that they go through in school, socially and mentally. It’s definitely not easy for kids, but it’s their reality.
CU360: Do you remember a time in school where it kind of dawned on you that you spoke differently from your classmates?
MKG: Yeah, yeah. When I used to read in class, I used to get stuck on some words. And I laugh now because I only understand who I am and I’m comfortable with who I am. And for those who do stutter, it will take some time to understand, to get comfortable with who they are. But there’s nothing wrong with it at all. Me personally, I don’t need anybody’s validation. Other people stutter. Now, I want to help them.
Michael speaks to kids at Camp Say. (Zach Lamb)
CU360: How did you improve your stutter?
MKG: Understanding myself and being comfortable with myself at the end of the day. It took a lot of patience and understanding, and it was also about finding the right [speech pathologist]. Little kids stutter. They face it from day one, and I was thankful. I had the support that I had from my family and friends.
CU360: How do you manage having a speech impediment today?
MKG: I don’t think I’ve ever fully overcome it. It’s something that I deal with on a daily basis. I have a lot of confidence when it comes to it.
CU360: How does your stutter challenge you?
MKG: I think my stutter challenges me to be more outgoing, and be more open to certain things and really push forward in a lot of avenues.
CU360: If you can look back and say something to young Michael about stuttering, now that you have all this wisdom, what would you say?
MKG: Pretty much I would say be more open to what I can become just because life is much much bigger than me. But having these experiences off the court like Camp SAY, I would understand that when I was little.