Beardsmen can be found throughout all walks of life. However, our latest Urban Beardsman seems to walk a little taller than the rest of us. At 6’9” tall and 245 lbs., with a beard of equally impressive size, professional basketball player Kurt Cunningham is hard to miss. “I don’t recognize the stares anymore, but people who aren’t with me often, always comment that ‘everybody always stares at you!’” Rather than take it personally, he says, “It comes with the territory I guess, I just smile and sometimes toss out a wise ass comment.”
Growing up in the small town of Sharpsville, Indiana, Kurt started playing organized basketball at age nine. This led to playing school ball in fifth grade. The older he got, the more he realized that basketball was something he wanted to do for as long as he could with hope to turn it into a career. “I got more serious starting in high school by quitting football and baseball to focus solely on basketball.” During a summer tournament in Las Vegas after his junior year, Kurt showed enough promise to attract the attention of college coaches and he eventually received a full athletic scholarship to Boise State University.
After five years at Boise State, Kurt had worked hard to complete his Bachelor’s degree (in Business Marketing) and his Master’s degree (in Athletic Administration,) all while playing four years at the highest level of college basketball. The high point of his team’s success would come during the 2007-2008 season where they not only won their conference tournament, but made an appearance in the NCAA tournament. Shortly after his final season, agents began to contact Kurt with promises of being able to find him a professional job. “Basketball was always my passion, as most of my life has revolved around the game.” Little did he know that the game he had loved since childhood would soon take him further than he could have ever imagined.
Fast forward to today and Kurt Cunningham is competing for Saint Vallier (France) in his fifth season as a professional basketball player. “Basketball wise, I’ve always been a cerebral player. I have enough athleticism and size, but I hang my hat on being a smart player.” His statistics for the season certainly back up that assessment. Despite pacing just fifth on the team in minutes per game, he has proven to be an integral and well-rounded core member of the rotation. Kurt is leading the team in rebounds, placing third in points and averaging the fourth most steals and assists per game.
While getting paid to play the sport he has loved since childhood has provided Kurt’s life with a certain amount of normalcy, living in France ten months out of the year was not the easiest transition he has ever made. “I used to hate that things were open from 12-2 for lunch and only after 7 PM for dinner, but the longer I live in it the more I adapt and it makes sense to me.” He has also taken advantage of the opportunity to travel and experience all there is to offer while living in France, including the many wineries that are close to the town in which he lives. Another factor that has helped his transition to living in France are the great and passionate fans. “The cities with teams typically aren’t huge like NBA cities and it makes for great environments where the people in the city are very invested in the club.”
Of course the biggest and most romantic benefit of playing in France was the opportunity to propose to his (now) fiancé Kylie in front of the Eiffel Tower. The two are planning to get married this August in Indianapolis. Despite having known each other since early on in high school (her brother was his best friend and her dad was the principal and basketball coach,) the two did not begin dating until many years later. From his remarks on the topic of marriage, it sounds as if things could not have turned out any better. “I’m far from perfect, but she makes me want to be a little better each day. I’ve been living for myself for the first 27 years of my life and having someone brings a whole new perspective.”
Basketball is not the only interest in the life of our newest Beardsman though. Kurt currently has a (what HE refers to as small) collection of around forty pairs of basketball shoes, that he admits, grows even larger at times. “I like to comb through eBay for deals every now and then. I like to sell, buy, search and see if I can find a rare pair in my size 16.” When asked about a possible post-basketball career, he says that he would like to work for a sportswear company. With his long and successful career in athletics, combined with his passion for sneakers, this second career could make him feel as fulfilled as the first.
And finally, to the all-important topic of what does it take to grow such an amazing beard, Kurt points out that the main piece of advice that he can share with our readers is to be PATIENT! “I’ve known friends that would trim every week, get disgruntled and end up shaving it all off. You’ve got to be willing to let it take on a life of its own at times.” He has also found that the longer his beard gets the less maintenance it requires, with him trimming the sideburns every month or two and taking care of the cheeks occasionally. When asked what his beard symbolizes, Kurt (with an answer that most of us can agree with) says, “I’d say if anything it symbolizes freedom, individualism, and a tad bit of rebellion. Beard on!”
Keep track of Kurt on the court through his YouTube channel and in pictures on Instagram.
About the Author: Thomas Lane
Thomas has been married to his amazing wife, Andrea, since 2010. They have a tough and beautiful daughter, Peyton, along with a mentally unstable cat and dog. He loves professional sports teams from Atlanta, 1980’s horror movies and watching whatever his daughter tells him to watch. Follow or shoot him a message on Twitter @bandholz.