While a shady cast of characters hung out on Third Street on Tuesday morning, a block away inside the Joseph Lee Recreation Center at the Bayview-Hunters Point YMCA, about 100 kids were all smiles. George Gervin and Artis Gilmore were wowing the crowd with a basketball clinic and inspirational speeches about making good choices to reach your life goals.
I doubt any of the youngsters had a clue who the Iceman or A-Train were, but Gervin’s personal story about being raised in Detroit, one of six children of a single mom who instilled the “morals, principles and values” that launched his Hall of Fame career, hit home.
At his Gervin Academy charter school in San Antonio, Texas, George, 58, says he tells students, “You can do your one through 12 in the classroom, or you can do one to 12 in prison. Many inner-city kids living in broken homes are looking for love and get it in gangs. We must redirect kids. Get ’em on the right path and continue to remind them how important education is.”
Gilmore, 68, who grew up in Dothan, Ala., during the days of Jim Crow laws says, “Although some things will never change, we are gaining knowledge and experience and the key for today’s kids is education.”
The seminars are sponsored by a national development program called Shaping and Preparing Youth, which is working in conjunction with The City’s housing authority and police department to offer young people healthy summer activities. The free program is in its inaugural year in San Francisco and currently has openings for about 50 more kids. For more information, visit www.soa-spy.com.
Gervin got his nickname in 1973 from Julius Erving when they were teammates with the ABA Virginia Squires because, “I wore a big hat, drove a Cadillac and acted cool,” says the Iceman himself.
Gervin thinks the cool thing for LeBron James to do would be to re-sign with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Gervin sees Cleveland as only a couple of players away from winning a championship. “The grass isn’t always greener. If he goes to Chicago and things don’t go well, fans will say he’s not like Mike. He doesn’t understand that.”
I know LeBron is being influenced by a cadre of corporate image makers, but tonight’s hourlong national TV spot “The Decision” is the epitome of self-indulgence, especially since the King has no ring and was flat out awful in his last playoff game against the Celtics.
Stay home, work on some post-up moves and revisit your future plans in two or three years.
The Fab Four
The Yankee infield of Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira is not only the best in baseball, it may be the best of all time.
A-Rod and Jeter are surefire Hall of Famers. Teixeira, 30, a two-time All Star and three-time Gold Glove winner, still has a decent chance to enhance his Cooperstown credentials, and the sky is the limit for two-time All Star Cano, 27. Teixeira is the only one of New York’s Fab Four (combined contracts: $700 million) not selected for next week’s Midsummer Classic in Anaheim.
Remember the only team that had its entire infield start an All-Star Game? The 1963 St. Louis Cardinals with first baseman Bill White, second baseman Julian Javier, shortstop Dick Groat and third baseman Ken Boyer.
KGO (810 AM) Sports Director Rich Walcoff can be heard weekdays from 5 to 9 a.m. on the KGO morning news. He can be reached at RichWalcoff@gmail.com.