The Atlanta Hawks hosted the Jr. Hawks Black History Month showcase at the newly renovated basketball courts at the Center of Hope at Bessie Branham Park. The Center of Hope has become an important gathering place for children, teens, and young adults in the Kirkwood community. On Saturday, Feb. 27, an alumni panel included Atlanta Hawks alumni Cal Bowdle, Charlie Criss, Mike Glenn and Mario West. In the audience, parents and children listened as the alumni shared both personal and motivational words of wisdom, inspiring the afterschool program children to follow their dreams despite their race, social economic status, disabilities, or current situations.
Rashauna Hobbs, manager of the basketball programs for the Atlanta Hawks, led the discussion with alumni and their families. She informed the audience of the great achievements of the program and the upcoming summer opportunities for students.
Charlie Criss, a retired NBA player who was the league’s shortest active player entering the NBA at mere 5-feet-8 inches, said “This is made possible through other people paving the way … The Hawks have done an outstanding job for setting something up like this and having these kids come to play.” Criss applauded the organization for having a positive outlet for the kids to play in healthy competition with each other. His advice to the younger generation is to “always stay committed.”
Mario West, a former Hawk and now an international basketball player, was also a part of the inspirational panel. He was ecstatic to be a part of the event, with the game being the core of the community. West said, “Being able to participate as an alum at this event and to see the game of basketball be a bridge for so many of us from so many different backgrounds shows that the game of basketball is the same language that we all speak.” He revealed his key to success: “To have the best time in life you need your 3-Ds: discipline, determination, and dedication. With those, you will see your goals come to life like a 3-dimensional movie.” West’s spirit and love for the game resonated throughout the room. -rj darnell