By Kenneth Johnson
As the New York Knicks organization was in the midst of preparing for their upcoming 2016-17 NBA season, team owner James Dolan as well as a number of Knicks front office staff members and players agreed to invite the LaGuardia Community College basketball teams to their home arena in Madison Square Garden on Columbus Day to discuss some prevalent issues shaping society today regarding race, social issues, the upcoming elections and much more. The visit was nearly unanimously described as a memorable experience for all parties involved.
Upon arrival into what is affectionately referred to by many sports fans around the nation as its shortened nickname, “The Garden,” both LaGuardia Men and Women’s basketball teams were escorted into the Knicks front office boardroom and given the opportunity to discuss some very important issues facing today’s society. The student athletes were given the platform to ask direct questions to the Knicks representatives and received advice on a plethora of important topics.
Accompanied by new Knicks center Joakim Noah and Troy Bowers, the Player Development and Community Relations Coordinator of the New York Knicks D-League Affiliate, the Westchester Knicks, the group sat down to discuss the intangible attributes needed to be successful in life as well as basketball. The group talked about preparation as the teams begin their seasons, development as the Red Hawks move onto the next level as student-athletes, and professionalism in the sports business environment. Composure, patience and alertness were main principal terms of the conversation used in an effort to initiate growth in their process of becoming young adults.
This meeting was launched by mentor of the LaGuardia Men and Women’s Basketball teams Kevin Rogers with the idea in mind of not only building a vital relationship between the Knicks and the Red Hawks but to instill some very important messages into the minds of the student-athletes at a time when there is a great deal of social unrest, all while creating an amazingly fun experience for the teams.
Around campus one may hear Mr. Rogers or the student-athletes using the phrase, “Wise one on post,” which essentially means to be alert, prepared and ready for instruction at all times. Rogers emphasizes that the players need to be composed, have respect, have patience and one that is often forgotten by many, to be cautious. These words were reiterated throughout the meeting at MSG and seemed to perfectly coincide with the words the Knicks representatives spoke on the day of their special meeting.
As if the trip to The Garden wasn’t enough for an exciting, eye-opening experience, the New York Knicks executives surprised the LaGuardia teams with gifts in the forms of Knicks carrying bags, souvenirs and preseason tickets to watch the team perform in the Garden that very same night against the Washington Wizards.
The LaGuardia Men’s and Women’s basketball teams would later express their gratitude for the meeting with letters written to Dolan and the Knicks describing what it meant to them individually to receive this kind of rare experience that “blew away” the Knicks executives, as Bowers put it. This likely will not be the last meeting between LaGuardia and the Knicks, as their first meeting was unquestionably a significant milestone.