PROVIDENCE — We all know who David Duke is, the one described in Wikipedia as "an American white supremacist, white nationalist politician, white separatist, antisemitic, convicted felon, and former Grand Wizard of the Klu Kux Klan.''
This is about the other David Duke, the Providence kid who is a freshman on the Providence College basketball team, a future star in the making.
This is about the kid who grew up on the streets of Providence, who now holds the sports dream close to his heart, the 6-foot-5 kid with the type of athleticism that brings big cheers in big arenas, the kind of body that seems all but designed for the Big East.
So this is about the other David Duke, the one whose basketball dream is just beginning, the local kid playing for the local team in the middle of the local fishbowl.
With a name everyone knows, even if it's for all the wrong reasons.
It's a complicated world.
"I've heard it my whole life,'' he said one day recently in Alumni Hall on the Providence College campus. He was in his white practice gear, his face all but framed by his black Afro. Rest assured he's never going to be confused with the other David Duke.
There's no doubt he takes the ball to the hoop better.
And there's little doubt he picked the right school for himself. The local kid playing for the local coach in Ed Cooley. The kid who already has found himself in the starting lineup as a freshman, no insignificant thing at PC. The local kid who no doubt has a big time future ahead of him.
"It's a great privilege to be playing at home,'' he said. "A great place to start the dream.''
Ah, the dream.
The basketball dream that hovers over every inner-city playground in the country like some sort of whispered prayer. The dream Duke started chasing growing up in the northwest part of the city, the dream that took him to Classical High School, where he became one of the top schoolboy stars in the state before going off to a prep school at Cushing Academy for a year.
"I saw the benefit of that when I was in high school.'' he said.
The basketball world is full of kids who never make it off the neighborhood courts, full of too many kids who never learn that the basketball dreams don't come with guaranteed endings, that they're always a bit of a crapshoot, always the roll of the dice.
Dreams don't come true just by wishing for them. Not in Duke's case anyway. He's played AAU tournaments around the country. He's played in the local tournaments. He's played pickup games against PC players in the summers. In short, he's chased the game wherever it was, and somewhere along the way he's learned the most important lesson of all: It's not just about the game. It's about the journey. It's about growing up. It's about everything.
So here he is as a Friar freshman starting his college career, arguably throwing his name out into the larger basketball world for the first time, a black kid with the same name as a white supremacist everyone's heard of. Talk about a curve ball.
He was in middle school when he first became aware of the ramifications of his name.
"I was shocked,'' he said.
But what to do?
He had people online telling him he had to change his name. His name. The one he was born with. The one everyone knew him by. His name. He felt annoyed. He felt pressure. For here he was a young black kid, whose roots were in Liberia, growing up in Providence with his head full of basketball dreams, in this country where we are taught that dreams can come true if we work hard enough, and has the same name as a well known white supremacist?
What to do?
In the end he decided to do nothing. Let the other David Duke change his name.
"Some day I want people to look up 'David Duke' and see my [face],'' said David Duke, the PC freshman.
He paused a beat, looked away, as if looking for something only he could see.
"Someday I want this name to mean something else."