Doug McDermott and Jarrett Jack of the New York Knicks in Harlem (Photo by Derrel Jazz Johnson for Steed Media Service)

Doug McDermott and Jarrett Jack of the New York Knicks in Harlem (Photo by Derrel Jazz Johnson for Steed Media Service)

Michael Beasley, Doug McDermott and Jarrett Jack of the New York Knicks, along with The Garden of Dreams Foundation and Papa John’s were on hand to spread holiday cheer in Harlem on Tuesday, Nov. 14. The three players were at Children’s Aid Society-Dunlevy Milbank Center in Harlem to host a pizza party and to donate 165 turkeys to families, courtesy of Hain Celestial.

The Knicks players, families and children were entertained by a DJ, face painters, caricaturists and board games. We captured an intense game of Connect Four between McDermott and a child. We spoke to each player after the event about the game and his experience in Harlem. Below are excerpts from our conversation.

What was the experience like giving out turkeys in Harlem?

Doug McDermott: It’s been great, being around the kids and their families, just being able to bring a smile to everyone’s face. We’re on a pretty big platform, playing for the Knicks so just to be able to give back to the people who watch us and support us, it means everything to us.

Michael Beasley: Fun! A great feeling to say the least just to see the kids and their families have fun for an hour.

Jarrett Jack: It was great. Me and my brother used to joke about that all the time, no NBA player, no rapper, no nothing ever came to where we were from. I still consider myself a very regular dude. I do regular things, I go “regular places” so I’m like man, if we can make an impact and try to instill a giving-back mentality at a young age to these kids, I think that’s an amazing thing.

How did you fare in Connect Four with the kids?

DM: You know what? I actually got beat and I was taking it real serious. You can tell his brain was a little more warmed up. He had been playing a few games. He’s reminded me about it a few times already.

JJ: I broke even, actually. I won the first one and then the kid got me on the second one. But it was fun though.

What comes to mind when I say Thanksgiving?

DM: Just growing up in Iowa, being a younger kid, getting all of my cousins together, going to my grandparent’s house, just being around my family really. But I think this kind of stuff is up there too, being able to be in a city like New York City and come back and give back to all these kids, it’s been amazing.

JJ: Family. The food part it just the complimentary thing. If I had my family all around me and no food, it would be much better than having all the food and no family. The food is just like a gathering thing, it kind of helps with the vibe of it all. But the family portion, the stories, the teamwork in putting together the meal, I think that’s all the best parts of it.  

Beasley responded with what might have been my answer, short and sweet. “Macaroni and cheese,” he said. But Jack hit it on the head: family and no food would be the best option as opposed to the opposite.

It is always great to see these professional athletes give back to our communities, the communities that helped shape them. The New York Knicks and The Garden of Dreams Foundation do an excellent job at it. Hopefully, you have plans of your own to help others as well.

Finally, as a product of the Harlem public school system myself, I would like this opportunity to trash-talk on behalf of the kids: at Connect Four, Children’s Aid Society-Dunlevy Milbank Center scored two wins, the New York Knicks only one win!

Doug McDermott and Jarrett Jack of the New York Knicks in Harlem (Photo by Derrel Jazz Johnson for Steed Media Service)

Doug McDermott and Jarrett Jack of the New York Knicks in Harlem (Photo by Derrel Jazz Johnson for Steed Media Service)

Doug McDermott and Jarrett Jack of the New York Knicks in Harlem (Photo by Derrel Jazz Johnson for Steed Media Service)

Michael Beasley in Harlem for Thanksgiving turkey donation (Photo by Derrel Johnson for Steed Media Service)

Michael Beasley in Harlem for Thanksgiving turkey donation (Photo by Derrel Johnson for Steed Media Service)

Michael Beasley in Harlem for Thanksgiving turkey donation (Photo by Derrel Johnson for Steed Media Service)

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Derrel Johnson

Lover of Christ, sports, hip-hop, my hometown of Harlem and much more. IG @JazzJohnson1