CLEVELAND — As part of the NBA’s appreciation that they city of Cleveland is hosting this year’s All-Star Game, there was a special dedication at the Cudell Recreation Center this afternoon. There were inspirational words and words of protest during the event.
“I am so thrilled because I grew up in a place like this,” said NBA legend Ervin Magic Johnson. He created some memorable moments at the center on Cleveland’s west side.
He asked several local leaders, including Congresswoman Shontel Brown, Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb, and Cleveland Cavaliers President of Operations Koby Altman, to stand in front of the children to show them the possibilities for Black leadership.
“You got one of the best teams in the NBA that can make a deep run in the playoffs. And look who built it. Look. (Koby) looks just like you,” said Johnson.
That was a main message today during the dedication of the NBA’s 2,000th overall Live, Learn or Play Center, and it’s at Cudell.
“You can be anything in life you want to be…anything you want to become. You can do it right here,” said Johnson.
Shortly after the ceremony, we asked NBA Commissioner Adam Silver why they chose Cudell. He said the Cavs helped.
“It’s really related to the team when we come into a community to tell us where they think we can have the greatest impact,” said Silver.
We asked him about Tamir Rice, who is the young man shot and killed by Cleveland Police just outside Cudell, and whether that played a role in the investment.
“I know this is an important spot and symbolic for many reasons,” said Silver. “It’s in partnership with the team which is really why we’re here, but it’s not lost on us, of course.”
Just moments after our interview with Silver, a handful of people staged a protest outside that recognized the NBA’s dedication inside Cudell but also what the NBA didn’t mention.
“(All of this) without dedicating some time and space to reflect upon a child who would be using these facilities who is now dead and there’s been no accountability,” said Josiah Quarels, who is an organizer for Tamir’s Campaign for Justice.
Just a few minutes before the protest, Johnson encouraged the kids to fist bump the leaders at the ceremony and think about their own futures.
“This is all of you dreaming that I can do some great things in life,” said Johnson. “And here’s your role models from all different walks of life.”
The NBA told us the Live, Learn or Play Center is a multi-purpose room that can be used for mindfulness and meditation.
The protestors said they want justice for Tamir.