This past weekend at St. Mary’s Park, located at 148th Street and St. Ann’s Avenue in the Bronx, the Kyrie Irving-Rod Strickland Summer Basketball League began its 25th season.
Conceptualized by LaMarre Dyson, who has run the league since its initial inception as the Rod Strickland-Steve Burrt (former Iona College basketball icon) Basketball League, the tournament has been a fixture of New York City youth basketball attracting participants from throughout the Tri-state area. The games are played Saturdays and Sundays beginning at 9 a.m., featuring the Itty-Biddy, Super Biddy, Biddy and Midget divisions.
“We’ve tried to stay consistent in what we do, in what works for us,” said Dyson late last week ahead of the weekend’s tip-off. “Teams and programs know what to expect with us.” The league had a forced hiatus in 2020 due to COVID-19 but returned last summer to a refurbished playground featuring new fiberglass backboards courtesy of the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation.
Brooklyn Nets All-Star Kyrie Irving was not at the league opening on Saturday but his godfather, Bronx native Rod Strickland, a former NBA standout and one of the greatest point guards New York City has ever produced, was on hand to interact with the young hoopers. Drafted in the first round by the Knicks in 1988, Strickland is currently the program director for NBA G League’s Team Ignite.
Dyson is the founder of Young Athletes Inc., a Bronx-based non-profit organization operated out of I.S. 584 dedicated to serving disadvantaged youth. YAI offers school year, Saturday and summer programs. The school year classes include digital photography, journalism, magazine publishing, robotics, chess and art.