Former Knicks forward Larry Johnson greets players at Flushing basketball tournament

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Former Knick Larry Johnson met with young players at the third annual Bland Basketball Tournament. THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre
Former Knick Larry Johnson met with young players at the third annual Bland Basketball Tournament.

Councilmember Peter Koo sponsored a basketball tournament Saturday morning in Flushing, which highlighted a guest appearance by two-time NBA all-star and former Knicks forward Larry Johnson.

The third annual Bland Basketball Tournament featured matches with young children, high school players and adults. The goal of the tournament is to bring more players and attention to the basketball court of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) James A. Bland Houses, which are in need of repair.

“I think [basketball] is a good sport. It builds team spirit and this is what America is about, working as a team,” Koo said. “As councilmembers we like to help the community, especially what they call ‘the disadvantaged.’”

Koo donated t-shirts and trophies to the tournament and called Madison Square Garden, which owns the team, to have the former NBA Rookie of the Year Johnson make an appearance.

Johnson, who averaged 16.2 points per game and 7.5 rebounds during an 10-year career with the Charlotte Hornets and Knicks, was also the John R. Wooden awardee during the 1990-91 season, which is given to the most outstanding player in college basketball. Johnson met the kids and took pictures, then he did the tip off to start the matches.

“With everything going on in New York we just want to fill the courts,” Johnson said. “It means a lot to me; it warms the heart.”

Because the courts are part of the Bland Houses, the jurisdiction falls under NYCHA and not the Parks Department.

Koo has been in touch with the housing authority to get the park revitalized, repainted and fix the court’s slant. He plans to fund the renewal, but is waiting for NYCHA to examine the cost to upgrade the courts. With a revitalized court residents hope more people from the Bland Houses will use it, instead of going elsewhere.

Craig Kinsey, president of the James A. Bland Resident’s Association, said Koo has been instrumental in organizing the tournament and supporting the court revitalization, and has hope that the courts will be upgraded soon.

“It’s very important when you could put a suit and tie on and still talk to regular folk,” Kinsey said of Koo. “I can always count on him.”

 

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