On the basketball court, it’s black and white.
“Basketball is all I know,” Joakim Noah said. “And I think that there’s something very positive about the game.”
That is why the Chicago Bulls center decided to use his foundation to host the first-ever ONE CITY Basketball Tournament. The game brings young adults together on the court for a friendly game of South Side versus West Side.
“It’s probably the most powerful thing I’ve ever been a part of,” Noah said.
Noah played the hype man for Saturday afternoon’s game. His teammate Derrick Rose stepped up to coach the South Side team, while Houston Rocket and Chicago’s own Patrick Beverley led the West Side team.
Gov. Pat Quinn also stopped by to show his support.
“I think all of us need to recommit ourselves in Illinois to fighting and combating violence,” Quinn said. “One of the best ways to do that is have positive alternatives for young people, and this game right here is a special way of doing it.”
The tournament, a spin on what Father Michael Pfleger has been doing for the past three years with his Peace Basketball Tournament, targets at-risk youth.
“Sports are the hook, and if every sports player in America did what Joakim’s doing, giving his time and his passion, we could change the landscape tomorrow,” Pfleger said.
“This is just as important to me as winning a championship,” Noah said.
The young men who played this game are charged with taking this spirit of cooperation back into their communities.
“We feel like these are the guys who can talk to the young guys, the younger generation,” Noah said.
“I always go back to where I came from,” Marvin Sykes, a player on the West Side team, said.
The South Side team won the game by one point.
Noah’s foundation hopes to be able to make the ONE CITY game an annual tradition.