By Claude Johnson

I had the very special privilege and honor of being recognized on Saturday, August 24, 2013 at Rucker Park in Harlem.

Claude Johnson at Rucker Park

An afternoon at Rucker Park, where I received the Harlem Week “Each One Teach One” Community Service Award on behalf of the Black Fives Foundation, for “tirelessly researching the history of African American basketball teams to help teach life lessons while honoring its pioneers and their descendants.”

Claude Johnson at Rucker Park with sons

With two of my sons at Rucker Park, after receiving the Harlem Week “Each One Teach One” Community Service Award on behalf of the Black Fives Foundation.

Claude Johnson at Rucker Park

With filmmaker Bob McCullough, Jr. (far left) and two former Rucker Pro League stars who possess NBA Championship rings, Hawthorne Wingo (2nd from left) of the New York Knicks and Emmette Bryant of the Boston Celtics. (Hubert Williams)

It began with me getting this earlier message from Bob McCullough, Sr., the legendary Harlem sports icon and community leader:

“We would like to honor you for the fine work you are doing with the Black Fives.”

He also wrote:

“On this day we also will be honoring members of the Rucker Pro League who were also on NBA Championship teams such as Nate “Tiny” Archibald and Emmette Bryant of the Boston Celtics as well as Dean Meminger and Earl Monroe of the New York Knicks.”

My reaction was that, I’m humbled. That’s really something, to be recognized by a man and an organization who have done so much for the game, and to even be mentioned in the same sentence with such company.

Mr. McCullough is the founder or co-founder of such renowned community institutions as the Rucker Pro Tournament, the Rucker Pro League, the National Association of Each One Teach One, the John Hunter Camp Fund, the Bob Douglas Hall of Fame, and the Pelham Fritz Basketball League.

He asked me if I remembered who first introduced us to one another. I did. The answer: It was by our mutual friend, the one and only John Isaacs, former star pro basketball player with the New York Renaissance.

Pee Wee Kirkland and Bob McCullough

Rucker Pro Tournament co-founder Bob McCullough, Sr. (right) rocks a ‘Black Fives’ tee shirt while posing in 2012 with playground basketball legend Pee Wee Kirkland at the famous Rucker Park in Harlem. (Maysles Institute)

The beautiful symmetry of this recognition is that directly across the street from Rucker Park, at the southeast corner of Eighth Avenue and West 155th, is the site where once stood the famous Manhattan Casino, which, since the early 1910s was the original basketball Mecca of the Black Fives Era. No plaque yet marks the spot.

On the other hand, the day was bittersweet, with news of the loss of former New York Knicks player and playground star Dean Meminger the night before the event. He was supposed to be there. Some of his Rucker League and Knicks teammates and friends attended, and held a moment of silence to honor his life.

With NBA veterans at Rucker Park

With former New York Knicks player and NBA veteran Freddie Crawford (far left), Bob McCullough, Sr., (middle), and former Boston Celtics player and NBA champion Emmette Bryant, along with two of my sons, at Rucker Park in Harlem. (Hubert Williams)

Claude Johnson at Rucker Park

A beautiful plaque to remember the honor. Thank you Rucker Pro Legends, Each One Teach One, and Bob McCullough, Sr. (Hubert Williams)

For more on Mr. McCullough and his many meaningful activities and efforts, please visit Each One Teach One and once there, please consider making a much appreciated donation.