In a recent article for the Greenwich Post, Claude Johnson, Founder & Executive Director of The Black Fives Foundation, recounted his recent experience of running a basketball education program for local Brooklyn elementary school students with Brooklyn Nets guard C.J. Watson.
The non-profit Black Fives stated goals are "researching, preserving, exhibiting, promoting, and teaching about the pre-1950 history of African American basketball teams while honoring its pioneers and their descendants."
The organization has been around for 16 years, but only recently has received widespread coverage from the New York Times, Daily News and The Root , among other publications. In addition, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg declared Feb. 10,2013, Black Fives Day for the City of New York. On the same night, Nets General Manager Billy King presented Johnson with the“Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things Award" at halftime of the Nets vs Spurs game.
Johnson cites the switch from a corporate style charity to a non-profit for the organization's recent success. Part of the switch in focus included an emphasis on educational programs like the one Johnson and Watson ran recently. The program:
"...consisted of showing the kids a collection of vintage basketball equipment (including a laced ball, kneepads and kangaroo leather shoes), discussing the ways the game is different (and the same) today, and then letting them play pickup basketball, but with one mind-bending caveat — they had to play by the pre-1915 rules,namely, that a player who had already dribbled the ball could no longer shoot it, or else it would be a turnover. "
The simple exercise teaches, as Johnson puts it, "adaptability, coachability and teamwork, essential building blocks for life, in a fun and engaging way." The kids were "riveted" but they weren't the only ones who left the program with a new perspective.
After the event, Watson said "“The rules they had to play by back then, some of the players in the NBA today wouldn’t last.”
An article from Mr. Johnson about The Smart Set Brooklyn Basketball Team first appeared on TBG back on February 7th.