Earvin “Magic” Johnson was one of the most dynamic, durable and talented players in NBA history. His natural gifts gave him a distinct advantage over his opponents. At 6’9” 230lbs, he was built like a power forward, but had the grace, ball handling skills and on the court leadership of a point guard. And though his size at his was not customary for a point guard, he became the best point guard to ever wear Los Angeles Lakers jersey. Point guards are typically the smallest players on the court. Their job is to control the tempo of the game by making good decisions with the basketball and allowing the players around them to score, by embodying a pass first, shoot second mentality. But Magic, because of his size, intelligence and smarts, could play every position on the court. His combination of size and speed made him a complete package, a once in a generation caliber of player.
And though Magic had an arsenal of skills, he is best most known for his passing. Magic had an uncanny ability to place the ball in the hand of his teammates from under the most improbable scenarios; like magic. He was so good at dishing the ball around that he didn’t even have to look in the direction of his passes. Hence, “no look pass.” It’s like he had eyes in the back of his head and three arms. A player could be on the opposite side of the court, totally out of position to receive the ball, yet Magic could penetrate the defending team with a laser pass that was only attended for his player’s hands. Squared up with a defender in his face, closing in on him… and POOF, the ball was out of his hands and being laid up by someone else, for two points. And when teams tried to anticipate his passes, he would keep the ball and score himself.
For his entire career he deceived us into thinking he was going left, when in actuality, his true intention was to go right. We thought that he would surely take the open shot, but he actually passed it off to someone whom you forgot was on the court…because you had been so engulfed in watching him. How did he do it? How did he see it? It was unexplainable. But he did it time and time again. You could never predict how the play would end, once the basketball touched Magic’s hands.
As I watch news and read reports about the state of politics in the United States. I feel like I am watching Magic Johnson play again. We are all being told to focus on emanate threat of Islamic terrorists. For a slither of time, some of us would have been duped into thinking that the Trump administration had a legitimate concern about Muslim extremists finding their way into the United States. Even if the World Trade attacks took place over 15 years ago and we had virtually no “terrorist” attacks on American soil since.[i] As a matter of fact, more than 90% of all “terrorist” attacks perpetrated by Muslims are inflicted on other Muslims… in Muslim countries. With the exception of Antarctica, when you look at the facts, the United States might be the safest place on the planet when it comes to “so called” terrorist attacks. Europe, Asia and Africa catch far more hell than we could every dream of.
So while a travel ban was being placed on Muslims in the name of protecting America from terrorists, another play was being drawn up. Social media has been flooded with posts about ICE (Immigration Law Enforcement) going into neighborhoods from Los Angeles, to New York City, to Miami to setup “check points.” Folks are being stopped, searched, detained and deported for being undocumented. The government is supposedly, only going after those with “criminal charges.” Whether the reports of checkpoints[ii] are true or false, Trumps rhetoric towards immigrants has fostered a growing climate of fear and mistrust of immigrants.
A few weeks ago, the Trump administration dribbled the ball down the right side of the court, telling us that Muslims were a threat because of their inherent ties to “terrorism.” But this week they through the ball to the opposite side of the court to our wide open ICE Agents who are allegedly boarding public transportation in places like Flatbush Brooklyn with a huge West Indian population and Flushing Queens, which is considered to be the most diverse neighborhood in the world, with families from virtually every country in Latin America and Asia. It seems that it’s not just about “criminals.”
The African American community already knows all too well about having their neighborhoods heavily policed. Black men very familiar with being stopped and frisked in the name of “proactive policing.” It seems like it will always be a reason to accuse people of color of being suspicious or a threat to America. It seems like all those years of stopping and frisking black people paid off after all. Those same protocols are now being practiced on the Latino and Muslim communities in America.
So what is this all about? Where is the Trump administration really going with their agenda? Unlike Magic, his “no-look” passes and skillful ball handling made those around him better. It made the team better. He led the Lakers to five NBA Championships.[iii] Also, in the game of basketball there are two teams on the court. The objective is to defeat your opponent. However, America is not a basketball court, it is a country. How is all this rhetoric and division making all Americans better? We are supposed to be unified. We should be trying our best include everyone, in our so-called democracy, polarizing and excluding certain groups. “United we stand. Divided we fall.” America is supposed to be a land of opportunity and refuge for those who cannot find refuge anywhere else. A land built on the backs of the same people who are now being systematically pushed away.
It is far too easy to place the blame of our shortcomings as a country on immigrants and people of color. It is far too easy to complain and pull on the emotions of the American people rather than make the necessary changes and sacrifices. America is not perfect, however, it is still one of the safest places in the world. It is still the land of opportunity. We cannot fall for the bait and allure of prejudice, fear and xenophobia. While it may look like hour president is going to work, to solve the problems of our nation, we need to look a little deeper. What is his real agenda? Because I know that expelling millions of immigrants and banning the entry of hundreds of thousands more, will not make America “great again.” But it will continue keep us confused, divided and distracted.
 ICE- Immigration Customs Enforcement
[i] ACLU FACTSHEET ON CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION’S 100-MILE ZONE https://www.aclu.org/other/aclu-factsheet-customs-and-border-protections-100-mile-zone?redirect=immigrants-rights/aclu-fact-sheet-customs-and-border-protections-100-mile-zone
[ii] False Stories About ICE Sweeps & Checkpoints Spark Fear In New York’s Immigrant Communities
[iii] NBA Encyclopedia –Earvin Johnson, Jr.
I was out celebrating with good friends the night before. We decided to meet up in the city for drinks and good music. I had a great time.
We joked around , partied and recited old rap lyrics, as the DJ spent hip-hop classics like Tribe Called Quest and Leader’s of the New School’s “Scenario” and “Slam” by Onyx. I felt like I had traveled back in time, to 1993.
As the night wound down, I realized that I had to get up in the morning to supervise three middle school basketball games. It was a struggle to say the least. An hour subway commute from Harlem to Brooklyn on a crisp Saturday morning is not exactly what one might call fantastic voyage.
I was running a little late because of typical weekend service in Brooklyn. No trains were available for several stops, so I had to take a shuttle to my final destination. Once I arrived at the school, I immediately began to set up. The gym was already stating to fill up with families and athletes from the other schools. The neighborhoods of Bushwick, East New York and Williamsburg had all converged on our gym in Crown Heights.
As the games played on, I finally relaxed and enjoyed the scene. A peace came over me that I hadn’t felt in a long time. I was home. Very few things bring me happiness like serving my people and my community. Mothers and fathers got an opportunity to watch their sons and daughters play basketball on a Saturday morning. The countless smiles, cheers and happy faces made me feel good. I guess this is important to me because even though I played high school and college athletics, I always wanted my family see me compete, but they never did. To look up in the crowd and see your mother cheering you on must feel awesome; I can only imagine.
On Saturday mornings, children in Crown Heights can be out getting into who knows what. But not these kids, they are with us, being kids, they are safe, working in tandem with their peers and learning to be part of a team.
It was tough, just functioning on a few hours of sleep, but it is always worth it. The next Lebron James, Kobe Bryant or Lisa Leslie could be playing at our gym and I was responsible for giving them the safe space to realize their talents. Someone did it for me. So how could I not give back? Personally, I suck at basketball. Football and track were my sports, but I understand the importance of giving children the opportunity to discover their abilities. I get to do that. All it takes is a key, a light switch and a cup of coffee.
Now that I am in my 10th year of teaching and coaching, I am truly beginning to see the impact that I have had on the lives of my students. There is no greater feeling in the world, than to see your students go on to be successful adults. One of my former athletes sent this email to me a few weeks ago. The timing could not have been better. It was after a long and challenging work at week.
Everyday I feel like giving up, throwing it all way. At times I can’t find my inner strength to keep moving forward. To keep running to keep studying. Giving up is so easy to do, but than I realize nothing in life is easy. Coach I just want to say thank you, thank you for believing in me when I didn’t believe in myself. I remember when I first joined your team, when I first started running you taught me more than form running, more than breathing exercise or drills, you taught me about life, every time I now want to give up stop running or even stop going to school I think of you , you effected my life more than you will ever know, you were like the father that I never had. I really just wanted to take the time out and say thank you. I know you probably are very disappointed in me and the thought of that urks me because I know I could of been way further out then where I am at now and for that Im sorry I know you saw more in me, it was always there I just never saw it. Well now I’m running again and it’s not easy at all but one thing I won’t do is give up. THANK YOU DADDY !
If it was not for sports, I am not sure where I would be today. We had very few options where I am from. My grades were not good enough to earn a scholarship to college, but I was athletic enough to earn a shot at college football and that was my path to higher education.
As a teacher, I understand that many of my students need sports and extracurricular, just as much as they need math and English. They need coaches, just as much as they need teachers.
Athletics can test your character and leadership the way no state test or final exam ever could. It is through teamwork that young people truly learn life’s lessons.
I am fortunate to have a coach who believed in me, when I did not believe in myself, a coach who never gave up on me. When I think about all of those who did not “make it,” maybe they just needed someone to push them. Maybe they just needed a coach.
In the communities that I serve, it may sound cliche’ but I am a role model, a mentor and big brother. In some cases a father figure, to those who don’t have fathers at home. It is a very important role and one can never take it lightly. Just look at the impact that I made and I did not even realize it.