James Hunt is a mentor to children, running a youth basketball program in Los Angeles, California. Among the kids he works with is actress Idina Menzel’s 13-year-old son Walker Diggs. The “Wicked” and “Frozen” star turned to “Celebrity IOU” to surprise Hunt with a renovated office space and training facility.
Menzel teased the upcoming episode on Instagram, writing, “Coach James (@culturerunny) is an incredible mentor to my son with a new garage that needed some @propertybrothers vision!”
Hunt commented, “Such an amazing experience and blessing.”
The series follows celebrities as they partner with “Property Brothers” stars Drew and Jonathan Scott to surprise important people in their lives with renovations. This season’s other stars include Drew Barrymore, Cindy Crawford, Terry Crews, Cheryl Hines, Kate Hudson, Leslie Jordan and Wilmer Valderrama.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. James Hunt Grew up From ‘Humble Beginnings’ in New York City
Despite growing up in what HGTV describes as “humble beginnings” in the Lower East Side of New York City, Hunt developed a love of basketball at a young age.
Crediting his father, Hunt told Voyage LA, “He inspired me to strive and focus on the journey regardless of the obstacles.” The Culture Run founder revealed those obstacles were both athletic and financial.
“In order to pursue my basketball dreams, I had to take a 3- 4 hour daily commute to school and AAU practice by myself,” he told Voyage LA. “I had no choice but to grow up quickly as the NYC train life was not always the most pleasant. There were days, I had to protect myself just because I was passing through the wrong parts of NYC. Gyms memberships were not financially feasible and at times I was forced to work on my game in the freezing cold.”
However, he credits the experience with developing his independence and self-awareness.
“During that everyday commute, I learned to multitask and complete my homework/study knowing I had other obligations at home,” he added.
2. He Got His Start Working With NBA Stars
Hunt moved to Los Angeles, California in 2005 and got his start training and managing Smush Parker of the Los Angeles Lakers, according to Voyage LA. As he told the publication, “That experience helped me find my niche which led to successful business relationships.”
As Hunt further explained, those relationships include not only Menzel and her ex-husband Taye Diggs, but also former NBA stars Shaquille O’Neal, Marques Johnson and Candace Parker. He has also partnered with brands – such as Nike and Adidas – and business owners.
“My father’s expertise, my business relationships, and many impactful experiences from the East to West coast are at the heart of my organization,” he added.
3. James Hunt Runs a Youth Basketball Program & Mentors Kids Like Idina Menzel’s Son
Hunt founded the Culture Run youth basketball program in Los Angeles, California.
“After losing both parents in a short span, he immersed himself in growing his program to help kids learn the sport and inspire them to dream big,” according to a press release. HGTV added that he teaches “game skills and life skills.”
Through it, he serves as a mentor and coach to kids – such as Menzel’s son Walker. In fact, the “Hidden Gems” actress told HGTV that Hunt is “like family and has coached and mentored her son for five years.”
According to the program’s website, “Culture Run consist of a private small group of players. Each athlete will be taught the fundamental aspects of the game starting from the skill level they are currently.”
4. James Hunt Published a Book of Quotes
Hunt independently published a book of quotes, “Quotes I Live By,” on February 28, 2022. The 26-page book currently has 5 stars on Amazon.
“My journey has been a long one. This book of quotes was inspired by life experiences during journey,” according to the book description. “I aim to inspire others to live and to follow their goals and dreams. Sharing information from one’s life experiences is invaluable. It can open up your mind and push you towards your goals. Each quote has its own perspective, influencing the reader to think beyond their own reality. God has given us many gifts and it’s our job to explore and find them.”
5. Idina Menzel Is Surprising James Hunt With a ‘Showstopping Office’
Menzel gets her hands dirty, working with Drew and Jonathan to create a permanent training facility at Hunt’s new home.
“To gift James with a space to review film, meet with his players and simply relax, Idina will team up with Drew and Jonathan Scott to turn his detached garage into a showstopping office that boasts a sleek kitchenette, comfortable seating area, modern bathroom and unique basketball themed wall mural,” according to the episode description.
“Idina Menzel’s Slam Dunk Reno” premieres on Monday, November 21, 2022, at 9 p.m. Eastern and Pacific times on HGTV.