On July 28, 2007, I was first at the park for our weekly Saturday morning
basketball game. Immediately, following me were four other players.
One turned to me in a sad, emotional voice and asked, “Have you
heard about Dennis?” “No, what happened?” I asked.
“He dropped dead on the basketball court Wednesday.” I was
stunned. “How old was he?” I asked. “53,” came
the reply. Dennis and I had played together for almost 15 years. He
always liked playing on the opposite side, not because he disliked me,
no indeed, quite the contrary, we liked each other very much. But he
liked matching up with me.
Dennis had once been a star athlete. Football and basketball were his
main sport. With age came obesity and failing joints and bones. Dennis
couldn’t move fast anymore. His quickness had gone. He still had
strength, bulk, smarts and experience. He knew a lot of tricks –
outside the rules, like pulling my shirt when I went past him or holding
me to keep me from getting away or stepping on my foot or throwing his
big body against me under the basket to keep me from rebounding the
ball. I confess I knew all the tricks he knew, I was equally guilty
of infractions. When we were caught or when the infractions became so
obvious we would stare at each other in a mock, menacing way.
Dennis’ strategy was to keep me in front of him. He would move
from side to side on the court, dragging his gimpy leg and portly body.
He would not try to follow me all around the court. He had neither the
speed nor the stamina. He was content to give me the outside shot. He
was a ferocious competitor.
We had some great times on the court. Eagerly, I looked forward to playing
against him. Most of the time, I won. Not necessarily because I outplayed
him, but I was on the better team. While we fought hard on the court,
in all the years we played together, we never had a serious argument.
And that is exceptionally rare in playground basketball, or any contact
At his funeral, held at the Community Baptist Church in Englewood, N.J.,
pastored by Rev. Lester Taylor, I said, “On behalf of my family,
my church, the community, especially, the basketball players from the
playground, I offer our prayers and condolences. Primarily, I knew Dennis
from the basketball court. We played mostly against each other for 15
I firmly believe, how a person conducts him or her self on the athletic
field speaks volumes to or reveals a person’s character, mindset,
values, and personality. So, I think I knew Dennis pretty well. He was
tough with a tender heart. He was sensitive to the wounded and losers.
He was always fair and fiercely determined. He was personable and likable.
He had a great sense of humor. He was always fun, even on the court,
when he was losing or winning
He was a great organizer and supervisor too. He managed and supervised
night basketball games in the gym of a local school. To keep order,
maintain respect and sustain adherence to the rules required extraordinary
skills, toughness and discipline. What Dennis said was the rules –
were the rules. No one, not even the toughest and the meanest, seriously
challenged his authority. He gave respect and demanded respect, and
he got it.
Now Dennis, I know you liked me and liked playing against me, but don’t
try to pull any strings to get me to join you. I will see you many,
many, many years from now.” (There was pervasive laughter –
a little humor goes a long way in helping and or healing.) I concluded
on a note of hope, reminding the family of the biblical promise of eternal
life. I will miss Dennis very much. Playing basketball won’t be
quite the same. Ever so often, I know I will long to match wits and
skills with him and laughter at each other, whether we won or lost.
Organizing Meetings regarding Darfur every Thursday - 12noon @ the House
of the Lord Church
Keep abreast of our Darfurian activities by checking our web page @
BCAT Program every 2nd and 4th Sunday @ 2p.m.For further Information
on all events, contact The House of the Lord Church @ (718) 596-1991
Our Annual Freedom Walk #4 – covering the Underground Railroad,
the African Burial Ground in Manhattan, on to the landing site of Frederick
Douglass, will take place this Saturday, 8/18/07 @ 9am. Each year we
visit historic sites used by the Underground Railroad. Starting at the
House of the Lord Church with a continental breakfast and a historical
overview, after which, we visit many of the houses that were used by
the Underground Railroad, along with the old Bridge Street Church, the
Plymouth Church, etc. Downtown Brooklyn was the center of the anti-slavery
Significantly, Mayor Bloomberg’s recent announcement of a six-member
panel to assist in his efforts to develop a project to commemorate abolitionist
activity that occurred in Brooklyn in the 1800s is very interesting.
What the Mayor is now bringing attention to with his announcement is
what we have been doing for years. Our church is in the downtown area.
We have been calling for the revitalization of downtown Brooklyn for
close to 40 years. Everybody knows we have protested, boycotted for
revitalization with the inclusion of history and culture. Our church
has continued the liberation or the human rights struggle started in
Brooklyn by our courageous ancestors so many years ago.