Building Bridges with Basketball 2020

Official Lakers Release

This February, the Lakers held their Building Bridges with Basketball program, which serves as an opportunity for members of the Los Angeles Police Department and at-risk youth from local community organizations to engage in conversation around dynamic topics and to play basketball. Using the sport as a springboard for these discussions around labeling, respect and accountability, the goal is to break down barriers and build positive, lasting connections that last beyond each session and permeate the community. This year, the Lakers welcomed community participants from Watts Skills Academy, Game Changer, 4wrd Progress and Anti-Recidivism Coalition.

To kick off the month-long initiative, the Lakers Youth Foundation hosted the groups at their pre-game Black History Month reception at Shaquille’s restaurant on February 6th. The reception included inspirational speeches about what we can learn from Black History from Laker legends A.C. Green and Dennis Rodman, as well as 1968 Olympic athlete John Carlos. All three athletes discussed their unique experiences as black athletes, their role models and what they hope for future generations. After the reception, all guests were able to walk across the street to STAPLES Center and enjoy that night’s exciting game against the Houston Rockets.

The Lakers continued Building Bridges with Basketball with two meetings hosted at UCLA Health Training Center focused on dialogues moderated by Game Changer and LAPD Community Safety Partnerships. During these meetings, participants held constructive conversations about accountability, awareness and relationship-building, and heard from Lakers legends Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Michael Cooper, as well as current Lakers players Dwight Howard and Troy Daniels. Coach Phil Handy also stopped by to share wisdom with the guests on the importance of supporting one another. Along with these inspirational exchanges, all participants were given the opportunity to show off their skills on the Lakers practice court as the LAPD and community groups intermixed for some friendly and competitive 5-on-5 games.

During the final week of the program, the Lakers hosted all participating community organizations and LAPD for a final reception as the South Bay Lakers took on the Santa Cruz Warriors. Prior to the game, all participants came together to dialogue with A.C. Green and to further bond with one another as they broke out into groups to speak about the similarities they all share, regardless of their situation. Groups found countless similarities between themselves such as a love for basketball, a passion for helping their community and even a common love for dogs.

Building Bridges with Basketball was motivational for all parties as they learned to overcome biased roadblocks and appreciate one another in the community.  It is our hope that the youth and the LAPD take these lessons and bring them back to their families and peers, ultimately creating a stronger, safer community.

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