Jalen Brunson USA Basketball

Jalen Brunson Named His Foundation ‘Second Round’ After ‘Being Overlooked’ Before NBA Stardom

AUG 8, 2023 | People

The USA Basketball player tells PEOPLE how he hopes to inspire youth through his Second Round Foundation

New York Knicks star Jalen Brunson has had a packed summer, but he doesn’t mind his busy schedule if it means helping others.

Before the newlywed athlete, 26, began training for the FIBA World Cup in Asia, he hosted a charity golf tournament near his hometown in Illinois to benefit his Second Round Foundation, an organization that aims to support the next generation’s dreams through academics, sports, and outreach.

Between training camp and tying the knot with his high school sweetheart Ali Marks in the same month-span, Brunson tells PEOPLE he enjoys being someone “people can rely on” even when his schedule gets busy.

“I’m a person who loves to keep people involved. I want to be a great leader, and I want be able to be a person that people can rely on, whether it’s on or off the court,” he says.

Second Round’s name comes from “being drafted in the second round and always kind of being overlooked,” Brunson tells PEOPLE.

He explains, “I just wanted to give people, preferably the younger kids and younger adults, that mindset of no matter what people think or say about you, it’s all about how your mindset and how you attack every situation.”

Currently, Brunson is preparing for the upcoming FIBA World Cup in Asia, which tips off on Aug. 25 and runs through Sept. 10. — an honor not lost on the Knicks star.

“Obviously, I play in the NBA, and it’s a lot of younger kids’ dreams to play in the NBA, but for me, my job here is to help you get that mindset. I think the biggest takeaway from this camp should be that your mindset going forward is to attack anything that you do with 110%.”

Second Round’s charity golf tournament brought out his New York teammate Josh Hart and former Knick Obi Toppin, as well as his father Rick Brunson, who serves as an assistant coach on the Knicks.

Brunson says his father is actually the reason he chose to host a golf tournament for the event. “The only reason why I chose golf is because my dad refuses to play me one-on-one [in basketball] anymore, so I have to beat him at something else,” he laughs.

The Knicks guard says his father “isn’t bad” at golf, but insists that he’s the Brunson to beat on the green. “He won’t admit this, but I’ve won seven straight times against him dating back to the past couple summers.”

Being a role model for his young fans is important to Brunson, who credits his parents for being the support system he needed to make it to the NBA.

“I think they inspired me the most and I’ve been able to do a lot with their inspiration, with their help, with their encouragement.”

Growing up with his father, a basketball coach, Brunson says he learned a valuable lesson from Rick that he’s applied throughout his career. “One thing that I always try and do is every coach that I’ve had ever since middle school, I have a great relationship with, and I still keep in touch with most, if not all of them, to this day.”

Also included on that list is current Indiana Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle, who Brunson played for when Carlisle coached the Dallas Mavericks.

“Even Coach Carlisle, one of my first coaches in the NBA, I still keep in touch with him. And Jason Kidd and Thibs, I’ve always been that way and I’ve always had people to fall back on and learn from them.”

One of the lessons he hopes to impart on the kids is to value the relationships you make along the way, no matter what the journey may be.

“Just keeping relationships and seeing how people have helped you and where you came from is so important. I want to be able to help people know that keeping relationships is important. You can do all this stuff for people you don’t know, but if you get to know these people it’s a totally different story.”

Jalen Brunson USA Basketball