Atlanta Hawks Host Basketball Camp Shows NBA Connects With Youth

There was one major incident on the court as well: the 2006 Knicks-Nuggets brawl, the NBA's last major disaster fight. Anthony is best remembered on that night for dropping Mardy Collins with a punch to the face. The NBA suspended the Nuggets' star player—averaging a league-leading 31.6 points per game at the time—for 15 games. He later called his actions "inexcusable" and apologized to Collins and his family.

But even during his string of screw-ups, Anthony was already establishing a charitable presence in his home city. He'd founded Team Melo, a nationally recognized AAU program with teams from Baltimore spanning ages 8-and-under to 17-and-under—and he tapped his old coaches, Wise and Corbett, to lead some of the squads during the early years.

In 2006, he pledged $1.5 million over five years to Living Classrooms' rec center on Fayette Street, a former Boys and Girls Club that had closed down in 2005. The center, which has since been taken over by Kevin Plank and Under Armour, bore his name from 2006 to 2011 and became a hub for youth activity.

"Carmelo came in at an important time there, and we got the center back up and running for about five or six years with his help," says James Piper Bond, president and CEO of the Living Classrooms Foundation.

By the time the Nuggets traded him to the Knicks in 2011, most of Anthony's behavioral incidents were in the rearview. That summer, the NBA was beset by its first lockout in 12 years. With no end in sight—the lockout started in July and lasted more than five months—Anthony saw an opportunity. He put together a charity pickup game at Morgan State University that featured himself and fellow stars LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Chris Paul, while also raising funds for his foundation through ticket sales.

Four years later, the aftermath of Freddie Gray's death produced the pivotal march in which Anthony, then 30, stepped up for his hometown. As areas of the city burned and crumbled, he appeared in person as a cooler, more mature head during one of the most trying times in Baltimore's history. He told residents to stand together and rebuild. He reconnected publicly with the place that raised him.

"When I come back home it's all love. Everything is cool, but—I'm here for a different cause right now," he told CNN's Ryan Young while marching. "I'm here to talk to the youth about trying to calm things down in the city, man. We shouldn't tear our city down. We got to rebuild our city. We're going to get the justice that we want. It's going to take some time. My message to everybody is to calm down, try to be patient."

Two years have passed since Melo's heartfelt homecoming, and while the post-Freddie Gray furor has obviously dissipated, much remains the same in West Baltimore. Tensions remain high between residents and cops. The Western District has seen a city-high 95 shootings through the second week of July, and police have made 442 narcotics arrests and 53 gun arrests.

With community groups scrambling to stem the violence around the city this summer through organized "Ceasefire" campaigns, a high-profile tournament celebrating the game of basketball in the heart of West Baltimore could bring a welcome boost, a reprieve from the violence, if even just for a weekend.

At the corner of Cloverdale Road and Druid Hill Avenue sits the Harrison Sykes Brown Playground, better known around the city as the iconic Cloverdale Courts. On any given summer weekend, one will find squads of five running pickup on one court and children shooting with their parents or playing in refereed games on the side closer to the clubhouse. Others simply grab a seat in the bleachers to spectate or wait for a chance to run again. Anthony belongs to an ever-growing list of local hoops legends who cut their teeth at the playground, conveniently near his childhood home.

Longtime members of Cloverdale AC/BBA, the community group that operates the playground's organized leagues, have their qualms about Anthony. Sitting in the clubhouse, Bill Harris says Melo at one point had planned to finance a renovation of the playground. One plan entailed installing a dome, similar to the design used at the legendary The Dome basketball courts in East Baltimore.

"We had plans to put a new building here, on the pretense that Carmelo Anthony was gonna donate a certain amount of money," Harris says. "He never did, so we never got that, you know, to transpire."

"I know it was in the paper that he was supposed to give the money, but it never happened," adds Warren Haymond, another member.

The renovations ultimately did get done. Roni Marsh, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks, wrote in an email that the city spent $415,000 on the project, with all of the funds coming from a state Community Parks and Playgrounds Program grant, and none from Anthony. The work was completed in 2012, she said. (A PR rep for Anthony didn't respond to a request to comment on the renovations.)

In some ways that makes this a typical Baltimore story: vastly differing opinions about how to help the city, and who's really helping a city that always seems to need more help.

During a trip to Cloverdale on a Sunday in May, Anthony's likeness looms subtly outside the clubhouse, printed right into the park's metal sign viewable from Druid Hill Avenue. More than one person can be spotted wearing his Jordan-brand gear. For years after he achieved NBA superstardom, he hosted his annual Melo H.O.O.D. 3-on-3 Challenge tournament at this playground.

Michael B., 52, still holds Anthony in high regard, even mistakenly giving him credit for the renovations.

"He's a good guy. He played here, he played all over before he went to college and stuff," he says. "He comes up here, man, and shows love. Good guy, man."

But he laments the conditions of other courts across the city and some larger issues, such as the city's shuttering of rec centers.

"The kids don't have nothing to look forward to," he says. "When we was coming up, we had basketball, baseball, football, and now they don't have no recreations man, [the city] took everything. If you take everything from somebody, what do you expect?"

Aside from the exchange of a few words or shoves during a heated game, Cloverdale remains a refuge, a gathering place for people who love basketball.

"When people really come to play basketball, a lot of times it's no trouble for real," says Ricky, 29, another Cloverdale Courts regular. "For people who really come to play basketball, they're not coming to fight. They're coming to play basketball. So a lot of stuff that might cause fights in other aspects of life is pushed—you don't even worry about it on the court, 'cause, you know, it's just basketball."

Later on during a game, a player dressed in blue streaks down the length of the court and splits two defenders for an easy layup.

"My handle's too nice!" he exclaims. "Forty years old, still got it."

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Atlanta Hawks Host Basketball Camp Shows NBA Connects With Youth


Atlanta Hawks Host Basketball Camp Shows NBA Connects With Youth

Atlanta Hawks Host Basketball Camp Shows NBA Connects With Youth


Atlanta Hawks Host Basketball Camp Shows NBA Connects With Youth

Atlanta Hawks Host Basketball Camp Shows NBA Connects With Youth


Atlanta Hawks Host Basketball Camp Shows NBA Connects With Youth