I hope and pray that everyone is well and dealing with this once in a lifetime crisis as best as you can. These days present increasingly difficult challenges to all of us. The thought that dominates my mind as I watch the terrible news of the past few days is how much we need sports and in particular youth basketball.
For the the first time in the past 22 years, we did not host AAU Championship Monday on Memorial Day. I have always maintained that Championship Monday was the most enjoyable day of the year. It was tremendous fun to watch players of all ages compete and totally enjoy themselves playing the great game of basketball . I would try to speak each year to as many teams as possible to tell them that anyone who was anyone for over twenty years in New York basketball played on Championship Monday. Every player was congratulated for becoming part of that very special group. We would distribute hundreds of medals that were worn with great pride.
The basketball was great but the universally respected and loved Super Scout, Tom Konchalski, caught what was the most important part of AAU Championship Monday. He would never miss the event and always looked forward to attending. Tom explained that Championship Monday, AAU and the Island Garden represented to him “Ball For All”. He would explain that he loved how everyone was welcome and was treated with respect by each other, fellow coaches and administrators. Race, ethnic background, wealth, religion, age, etc – none of it mattered. Everyone was equal and belonged because we all loved basketball and by extension, each other. This thought offered by a person who is one of the greatest and most influential people ever to be part of New York Basketball led me to put his words on a sign and hang it at the entrance of Island Garden for everyone to see as they came to play —- BALL FOR ALL.
As we battle a pandemic, economic hardships and racial conflicts, I realize more than ever how much I miss basketball and how important basketball is in our lives. It is so much more than final scores, medals and the intense competition. Basketball is at the base from which we come to respect and care for each other and as a result, come to build lifelong friendships.
I promise everyone in our basketball family that my team at AAU and Island Garden will work everyday to get us back on the courts at Island Garden as soon as possible.