Knicks Jr. NBA/Jr. WNBA Basketball Clinic for the Sprite Jr Knicks League presented by Nike & Footlocker
The Knicks and YMCA -- 15 Years of Togetherness
"In many ways, basketball was invented at the Y," explains Director of Communications for the YMCA of Greater New York Dawn S. Walker. "James Naismith was a 'Y' guy." The "Y" teams up with the Knicks in sponsoring, and in many cases housing, the Sprite Junior Knicks League. "When I was growing up, I learned to play ball at the Harlem YMCA," adds Ramsey. "I played ball at the Y in Oklahoma as a kid all the time," claims Knicks Fan Development and Alumni Relations advisor John Starks. "That positive environment was great help to me as a kid. And it was tremendous fun."
It was the kids of today of course, that had the fun at Manhattan's McBurney YMCA as onetime Knicks great Charles Smith held a Knicks JR NBA/JR WNBA basketball clinic for Sprite Jr Knicks League participants while Starks and Ramsey talked to them and signed autographs afterwards. The occasion was a citywide Open House, with all 16 YMCA-s in all 5 boroughs enjoying a Knicks presence with ticketing tables and information. The pinnacle was the clinic complete with basketball shooting contests for prizes and an autograph session, of course. "I can't believe John Starks just signed my tee-shirt," nine year-old Graham Berg showed off proudly. "And my ball. And another shirt for my friend. I'm a huge Knicks fan -- go to games with my Dad since I was 3 years old -- and Stephon Marbury has been my favorite Knick. Now it's Stephon and John Starks." Clinic participants - all members of the YMCA and JR. NBA/JR WNBA program - all received Knicks Tshirts, folders, NY Liberty items and were eligible to win Knicks winter hats and scarves with their parents and guests in an end of clinic shooting game where many people walked out the the YMCA on 14th street with tons of new Knicks items after making baskets in the state of the art gym.
When it was his turn on line, the slightly excited Mr. Berg could barely get out his question to Starks: "Did you really dunk over Michael Jordan?" 'Well, what do you think, big guy?" smiled Starks. "You saw it on TV? Then it must be true. I guess I did."
"Graham is not only having fun -- you simply can't tear him off the court -- and improving his basketball skills, but he's learning so much about values, sharing with others, and teamwork," mom Janet Berg smiled. "Every child gets to play -- the Sprite Junior Knicks league is not just about winning. In many different ways, it's been invaluable to us."
"I've gone to every 'Y' in the City with the Knicks," said Ramsey. "I feel that it's one of the most important things we do. We stress not only having fun but the importance of sportsmanship and education as well. I tell the kids, 'as hard as you play, study even a little bit harder.'"
"Our 15-year relationship with the Knicks has been just wonderful," said Walker. "This clinic was part of our effort to even expand it. Right now we have a membership effort going on called 'Where Do You Belong?' And the Knicks made a commitment to helping with our citywide membership drive by coming out to all 16 'Y'-s this afternoon and on Feb. 26."
Where do you belong? It seems that the "Y", and the millions of kids it's helping to learn about athletics and sportsmanship, belongs with the Knicks -- and the Knicks belong with the "Y". It is a natural, and beautiful, marriage, indeed.