“I am so excited about what we are doing today,” said Mavs CEO Cynt Marshall. “This is more than just a court. This is the NBA celebrating 75 years of making a difference in people’s lives.”
Monday afternoon was a celebratory occasion that felt more like a summer festival than a formal ceremony.
The renovated basketball court at For Oak Cliff was shining so bright — literally — that the gloss from the hardwood reflected off the faces of youth gathered on the floor.
Even with some of the best basketball players in the world converged on stage, everyone knew it was really about the kids. The children are the ones who will play, bond and create new dreams long after the lights and cameras fade.
They were the VIPs on this day. As the court glowed from their faces, it marked a turning point when the past evolved into the future.
“You are watching our mission live out in real-time,” said Taylor Toynes, co-founder of For Oak Cliff. His remarks at the dedication ceremony were riveting and left the entire gym speechless.
“Everything that is happening here will be the foundation of this city,” Toynes passionately shared. “Moorland YMCA is the first YMCA built for African Americans in all of the Southwest. In all of the Southwest! Now you are looking at the new occupants of this building. We are the people who grew up in this community and now have power and leverage to create a culture-relevant space for these young people who come after us.”
The renovated court at For Oak Cliff celebrates the NBA’s 75th season. It was built in partnership with the NBA, Chime and Coco-Cola. It represents the Mavericks’ long-standing support of For Oak Cliff’s mission to end systemic oppression by reinforcing education, advocacy, arts and community.
Chime is the official jersey patch sponsor of the Dallas Mavericks and presented Monday’s official ceremony.
Dallas Mavericks legends Rolando Blackman and Derek Harper were also on hand. The franchise has only retired four jerseys in over 40 seasons, and those two guys are among them.
Brunson’s father, Rick Brunson, also joined the festivities and the father-son duo worked with youth at a clinic. They shared their excitement and hope for the future during the ceremony speeches.
“It’s bigger than basketball, and that’s what the Mavs organization has been about since I’ve been here,” said Brunson, one of the most philanthropic players in the NBA. Each year he pours out countless hours with various activities to help youth and also hosts his own summer camps.
Hardaway is the same way. Since joining the organization, he’s been a massive part of the Mavs dedication to the community. This year alone, he’s participated in giving away turkeys, donated thousands of dollars at Christmas, donated seats to underserved children and dedicated hundreds of hours to giving back in other ways.
“It’s a blessing. It’s a great opportunity,” Hardaway told the audience and youth. “This building, this court is for you all. It’s for you to stay out of trouble. Remember to stay in school and have a great fun time with your friends and loved ones.”
Every touch added to the new court was futuristic and innovative, with polka dots painted into the lanes and the current Mavericks’ City Edition logo swirled at center court.
Later this summer, local Dallas artist Jeremy Biggers will add a mural to the gym.
The renovated court is located at the For Oak Cliff community center, situated atop 10 acres of land at the former Moorland YMCA. The sprawling campus boasts 20,000 square feet to serve people in the Oak Cliff superblock.
In February, the Mavs and Mavs Foundation dedicated the largest computer room in franchise history there.
Sixth-grade students at Sarah Zumwalt Middle School could hardly contain their excitement Monday afternoon.
A sleek black charter bus rolled up to the school and picked up Charltiana Lewis’ class. The students were the honoree attendees for an event that brought together hundreds of people in southern Dallas.
“What I think is most important for them today is they get to see people from their city go on to have great purpose,” Lewis said.
“They can meet leaders who also grew up right here and continue to make a difference. They met the For Oak Cliff founders and NBA players who look just like them. This is a day they’ll never forget.”
The Mavs Academy later held a mini-basketball clinic for the students and Brunson and Hardaway worked with the youth. There was a community festival that took place afterwards with an overflow of traffic filling up parking spots along the grass. A food truck, music and plenty of fellowship brought laughter and joy to all the people who joined from the Oak Cliff superblock.
“Our community is so tight right now; it’s unbelievable,” Toynes said. “It’s amazing, and it’s family, and that’s how you move the mission forward. And today, we are celebrating my first love, which is basketball. I won my very first trophy in this gym.”
Story: Tamara Jolee | Photography: Monica Borja