By BEN LEIKER
For Starkville Daily News
Starkville native Travis Outlaw came home Saturday to help the Travis Outlaw Day Committee show the city and its residents how much he cares about them.
Excited fans of all ages braved slight rain at McKee Park to celebrate the Annual Travis Outlaw Day with the famed basketball player. Outlaw’s family and friends started celebrating Travis Outlaw Day in 2005 to recognize the local star’s NBA accomplishments while providing an opportunity for Outlaw to give back to the community.
Outlaw was drafted directly out of Starkville High School in 2003 by the Portland Trailblazers in the first round. The 6-foot-9-inch, 207-pound forward now plays for the Sacramento Kings after previous stints with the Los Angeles Clippers and the New Jersey Nets.
Sedaria Williams, public relations coordinator for the Travis Outlaw Day Committee, helped organize the event and expected about 4,000 fans to participate in the day’s events. Family friendly activities included moon bounces, face painting, barbecue cook-off and dance-off contests, and several types of athletic competitions around the park and at the Starkville Sportsplex. The Federation of Democratic Women was also present and assisted voter registration efforts.
Travis Outlaw said he was happy with the large turnout and was glad for the opportunity to interact with the residents who have been an integral part of his success. His main focus for the day was to give back to Starkville, the place of his beginning.
“It’s a way for me to show my appreciation for all of the people who supported me,” he said. “I’m just very thankful.”
Family is important to the Outlaws, Travis said.
“My family and this community were there for me from the start and they’ll never let me forget where I came from,” he said. “I’m lucky for that.”
Holding court among the dance-off contestants, barbecue cookers and hometown athletes was Travis Outlaw’s mother, Markeeta Outlaw. She stressed the importance of role models to young athletes and said she was proud of the way her son serves Starkville.
“Sometimes role models seem larger than life, but it’s important for people to know that they are ordinary people,” she said.
Markeeta Outlaw also touched on how important her son was to the Starkville people, saying, “Starkville has been behind Travis since day one. We had to raise money for his (amateur athletic union basketball) team, and there wasn’t a business in Starkville that said, ‘no.’
“I think he just likes interacting with the kids because he’s just a big kid at heart,” she added.
Lela Jack, West Point city clerk, was on hand Saturday to judge the barbecue cook-off alongside Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman and Tim Cox of Cox Consulting Service in Columbus. It was Jack’s first time at the event, but she said she plans on coming back next year with her family because of the friendly and welcoming atmosphere.
While mixing with his younger fans, Travis Outlaw reminded them of the importance of staying healthy and active, and how that lifestyle benefited him.
“It’s also good to see all of these kids out here in the rain — good to see them off the video games. There’s more to life than those games, man. There’s all of this outside, too.”