Summer youth basketball has been an integral component of the social fabric of urban communities across the United States for more than eight decades. Its genesis can be traced to the great Holcombe Rucker, who in 1950 founded a league in Harlem in New York City bearing his name to provide youth essential life skills and a pathway to higher education.
The Kyrie Irving-Rod Strickland Summer Basketball League is one of many tournaments during this current era in which Amateur Athletic Union basketball has been widely criticized as an apparatus of exploitation and corruption, that continues the principled legacy established by Rucker. It is rooted in Young Athletes Inc., a youth development organization founded in 1997 by longtime friends LaMarre Dyson, Steve Burtt and Rod Strickland.
Burtt, a former star at Iona College in the 1980s and Strickland, the godfather of NBA All-Star Kyrie Irving, who was an outstanding 17-year NBA point guard in his own right, are members of the exclusive New York City Basketball Hall of Fame. Dyson’s impact on the city’s basketball culture is immeasurable. He was a coach of and mentor to some of the most accomplished student-athletes, girls and boys alike, to sprout out of the five boroughs since the late 1970s.
Furthermore, Irving’s father, Drederick Irving, who graduated from Boston University in 1988 as the basketball program’s all-time leading scorer, is a major supporter of and frequent presence at the Kyrie Irving-Rod Strickland Summer Basketball League.
This past Sunday, the league, held at Junior High School 162 on 149th Street and Ann’s Avenue in the Bronx, concluded its 21st season with a day of championship games. It began with the Itty Biddies as the Gauchos bested Riverside 36-22, led by MVP Mohamed Doumbia. Hector Almodovar’s noteworthy performance garnered him the sportsmanship award.