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Pro groups make big play at Bush Playground basketball courts

15th April 2013   ·   0 Comments

By Philip Stelly
Contributing Writer

Oliver Bush Playground in the Lower Ninth Ward is in a sweet spot. It’s a few blocks from Fats Domino’s house and across the street from an accessible waterfront.

And now the city park in the Lower Ninth Ward is even more attractive thanks to three newly reconstructed basketball courts that have the stamp of approval from active and retired professional basketball players.

Last week, several hundred people turned out for the dedication of the new courts that boast fresh orange, blue, red and yellow paint with white trim. At center court are the logos of the National Basket­ball Retired Players Association (NBRPA), the Na­tional Basketball Association (NBA) and the National Basketball Players Assoc­iation (NBPA).

The highlight of the dedication was a basketball clinic with former NBA players. More than 150 children, ages 8-14, participated in the clinic led by former player Eldridge Recasner, who grew up the Lower Ninth Ward, and who once honed his NBA ambitions at Oliver Bush Playground. Recasner, who operates his own basketball training academy, has played for the Atlanta Hawks, and the Charlotte Hornets before wrapping up his NBA career at the Los Angeles Clippers in 2002.

Officials say the refurbished courts with the professional basketball association logos could host a future NBA star. At a minimum, they say, the basketball courts and other amenities provide a much-needed recreational space in an area still reeling from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina

”We are proud of the contributions we made to the reconstruction of these courts,” said Arnie Fielkow, former New Orleans City Council president and the current president & CEO of the NBRPA. “This is a great community asset where people can just have fun,” he said.

Since August 2012, Fielkow’s group and others has contributed a total of $33,000 toward the repainting of the basketball courts.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu thanked the NBRPA for their generous donation to help fund the painting of the basketball courts. “The city welcomes partners like the NBRPA in rebuilding city assets,” Landrieu said. “The City is committed to the revitalization of the Lower Ninth Ward and this playground’s $2.1 million renovation is just one of many important projects we will complete.”

Besides the NBRPA, other partners in the Oliver Bush Playground venture are United Way of Southeast Louisiana; the SNR Denton international law firm, which has Chicago roots like the NBRPA; and District E Council­man James A. Gray II.

Gray said rebuilt playgrounds like Oliver Bush’s play an important part in saving lives and in training young people to compete as healthy citizens. “The residents of District E thank the Mayor, Arnie Fielkow and the NBRPA for their efforts to insure that our young people literally have a level playing field,” he said.

The refurbished courts were dedicated hours before the NCAA Women’s Basketball Finals in New Orleans and the start of the NOLA for Life Midnight Basketball League. NOLA for Life, which is free of charge and open to males over 16 years old, focuses on providing safe recreational opportunities in crime hot spots for young men through the game of basketball.

This article originally published in the April 15, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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