Literacy Through Basketball Heroes
was an only child growing up at home,” Knicks center Slavko
Vranes said. “But I love children. Frankly, I like to be around
kids more than I like to be around adults.”
that was the reason why the 7’6” rookie (maybe he was he the
only child they had room for at home in Podgorica, Montenegro)
was having the time of his life at the NBA Reading Rally at
P.S. 8 in Washington Heights. Over 30 NBA rookies (and a few
second-year players) thrilled the school’s third and fourth-graders
by participating in a raucous school assembly—and, later, reading
the wonderful children’s book Strong To the Hoop to
the students in individual classes—as part of the league’s
annual Rookie Transition Program. “Any time the NBA wants me
to do something like this, all they need to do is call,” Vranes
said with a wide smile. Principal Carol Rubin told the students
how fortunate they were to be visited by “all these wonderful
NBA players. They could have chosen any of 1200 other schools,” she
said. “But they chose us. They chose you,” she said to the
students of P.S. 8 where the 150 children oooh-ed and aaah-ed
as the tall rookies began to fill the stage. Top pick LeBron
James got an especially awed reception. “I guess, even at this
early age, these kids can tell who’s a superstar when they
see one,” Master of Ceremonies Bob Lanier quipped.
are we here?” Lanier asked the kids. “Basketball!” the little
voices shouted. “No, reading!!” Big Bob chuckled. “We’re here
because of reading.”
Lanier’s prodding, the Grizzlies’ Dahntay Jones admitted his
favorite book in fourth grade was Green Eggs and Ham.
Do super talents stick together? Well, maybe: the Heat’s’ spectacular
Dwayne Wade is currently reading Playing For Keeps by
Michael Jordan. Milwaukee’s T. J. Ford, all 5’11” of him, told
the kids “You don’t have to be tall to be good at something.
Reading exercises your brain and helps you develop intellectual
skills.” Next, Lanier asked Lebron “At this age, you were not
thinking of being in the NBA, right?” “Wrong,” James nodded
his head emphatically to much general hilarity. “Actually,
I was. But, kids, you don’t have to be ballplayers to be successful.
You can all be great at something. You can be teachers, doctors,
nurses, or lawyers. If you study, read, and listen to your
teachers, you can be anything you want to be.”
along with 7-foot Knicks rookie Maciej Lampe and the Spurs’ world
champion guard Manu Ginobili, then retired to Washington Hernandez’ well-appointed
fourth-grade classroom to read Strong To The Hoop. The
book, about a little boy, James, who gets into a playground
basketball game against older kids and succeeds due to his
skills and courage, was a huge hit among the students. Of course,
it helped enormously that LeBron, Maciej, and Manu all held
such obvious affinity for the children.
one point, in order to encourage the little ones to actively
participate, Ginobili said, “You know, I’m from Argentina,
so I need help with my reading.” One little girl with a pair
of big pigtails happily complied. “I’m from Poland, so I also
need help with my reading.” Lampe followed suit. “Well, I’m
from Cleveland, so you know I need help with my reading,” quipped
NBA trio ended the reading by signing autographs and handing
out innumerable low-fives.#
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