Black Star Project Showcases Careers in Sports at the NBA All-Star Weekend
By: Zeki Salah, Communications Associate
The Black Star Project recently partnered with BDM Sports & Education Project to send Chicago students to Salt Lake City to learn about careers in sports at the NBA All-Star Weekend from February 17-19. This trip marked the third year that the Black Star Project has sent young people to the NBA All-Star Weekend to provide them with an inside look at the professional world of basketball and with a fun weekend of basketball events.
Brian McCoy, or Coach Q, began the BDM Sports & Education Project in 2014 with the goal of making a positive difference on the South Side after repeatedly hearing about violence on the news. “What I know is that a young person can’t shoot a gun and a ball at the same time. So I went to one of the roughest spots in Chicago and said, ‘Hey, I want to do a free sports camp for young kids’ […] I think the kids I spoke to felt my sincerity because I gave them a clipboard and when I returned later the clipboard was filled on both sides.” Coach Q then went to his contacts in community activism and education, including Gloria Smith, a 2020 Chicago Peace Fellow, and approached them about starting a youth sports camp, with a focus on the business side of sports. He held his first camp in Englewood in 2014 and has continued to hold basketball camps, baseball camps, and most recently an introduction to golf.
The trips to NBA All-Star Weekends have been held by Coach Q and the Black Star Project for the last three years. The trips aim to combine an introduction to the business of sports with a fun weekend for teens on the South Side. The trips place a focus on academics and include essay contests before and after the trip. In prior years, the Black Star project has chosen participants for the trips based on essays that they write on their interest in a career in sports. This year, an essay contest is being held for a cash prize following the trip. Coach Q and the Black Star Project also provide a ten week business of sports curriculum leading up to the trip, which allows the young people to learn about the different professions within the sports industry before they go on to meet them at events such as the All-Star Weekend. Speaking to the idea of synthesizing the business aspect and sports aspect of the trip, Coach Q said:
The average young person wants to be the next Lebron James, but in actuality, the probability is really slim […] So, what I try to do is let them know that it’s okay to have dreams, but let them know the reality of the situation and ask: ‘What are you really looking for?’. By taking them to the game you can show them both sides, the excitement, but also the thousands of people making that game happen. There’s a camera man, a sports physician, a sports attorney, an agent, a sports statistician, a kinesiologist; there’s so many different careers involved that no one ever talks about.
The Black Star Project took the lead on programming and fundraising for the All-Star weekend, while Coach Q accompanied the young people and introduced them to professionals in the sports business. The first event they attended was the HBCU Classic, an annual basketball game between two Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) that was started by the NBA to show their commitment towards social justice in response to boycotts during the Black Lives Matter movement. The young people on the trip also participated in an HBCU college fair and learned about the NBA’s HBCU Fellowship program, which aims to provide career development opportunities in the business of basketball for undergraduate and graduate students from HBCUs. After the fair, the young people were also able to meet and greet with sports business professionals.
Throughout the weekend, programming combined both opportunities for the young people to have fun and enjoy basketball programming and an inside look into potential careers. The young people on the trip were able to have dinner with Rev. Jesse Jackson, who attended the University of Illinois on a football scholarship. He provided insight as to how entering the business of sports could allow an individual to transition to other careers, such as career as a minister and civil right leader. There was also a more leisurely section of the trip where the young people attended the NBA Crossover, which is a multi-day interactive fan event that brings basketball culture to the forefront, featuring player appearances, live performances, art, and music. Combining both business and pleasure helped the young people think about their futures in a fun and energetic setting and provided them with a one of a kind opportunity.
Coach Q and the Black Star project aim to continue to hold trips to NBA All-Star Weekends for young adults on the South Side. They hope to not only hold trips to the NBA All-Star games, but also to the WNBA All-Star games so that young women can get involved as well. The next WNBA All-Star game will be held in Las Vegas in July. You can support the Black Star Project and their efforts to send students to these games to learn about the business of sports here.
BDM Sports & Education Project’s (Powered by the Black Star Project) 4th Annual Youth Business of Sports Essay Contest
Following the trip to Salt Lake City, BDM Sports and Education Project held an essay contest for high school students with the following prompt: “The average NBA playing career is about 5 years, how should players maximize their opportunities for personal growth and professional development, during their time playing in the league, while also preparing for when their NBA playing career comes to an end… Life Beyond the ball?”
Winners of the contest include:
1st Place Winner ($1,000): Brandon Williams-Orr, Providence St Mel HS
2nd Place Winner ($500): Aaron Williams-Orr, Providence St Mel HS
3rd Place Winners (Tied) ($250): Laylah Richmond, Bolingbrook HS and Antonio Scott, Little Black Pearl HS