Los Angeles Times

Hometown helped shape Lakers rookie Kuzma, whose love of basketball was sparked at the YMCA

FLINT, Mich. - Outside of a castle made of washed aggregate concrete with grayed seafoam green panels in between, rain spits onto the broken asphalt.

Kids playing basketball inside start a game with two men in their 50s. Painted on the far wall is a welcome along with an explanation of where you are: Hoop City Gym.

This place has embraced generations of basketball players. The Flintstones, a trio of Flint natives who won a national championship at Michigan State, played here long before a pre-teen kid nagged his mom to take him there or begged staff members to sneak him in. A block away there is a plot of land covered in rubble, remnants of a home long destroyed like so much else in this city.

But this building has stood for decades. The Greater Flint YMCA has served the community for more than a century.

It was there before the auto industry invigorated the area, back when the horse-drawn buggy earned Flint the moniker "Vehicle City." It was there through Flint's rise as a motor town, with factories bringing well-paying union jobs. It stood through Flint's fall as the American auto industry stumbled to its knees in the early years of the 21st century, when Flint turned into a place without opportunity or much hope. And when poison ran through Flint's water system, the YMCA was one safe

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