For a few precious moments Tuesday afternoon at Griggs Park, Rolando Blackman gave a very passionate speech about life to kids from the Boys & Girls Club of Dallas.
Blackman spoke from the heart as he tried to provide a road map for the kids to follow as they try to navigate their way through these turbulent times. It was real talk at its finest from Blackman, a Dallas Mavericks’ legend and community ambassador.
"When you get into an urban area, kids have to know and understand that they have the power,’’ Blackman said. "They don’t understand that they have the power to be able to pull themselves through the woods by having an educational fortitude.
"The force is an educational path and being able to make your way through going for education, and then everything that falls on the side will come to you because you’re on this path that’s universal. And the important factor with that is that they have to know that and they have to be willing to internally, in their heart, burn and put the fire in for that path, educate themselves, get themselves a greater understanding as they move towards their college degree and have an opportunity to see what the world brings with people who are in that educational path, and kids from the inner-city need to do that.’’
Mavericks forward Dwight Powell, assistant coach Jamahl Mosley, Dallas city councilman Philip Kingston and Blackman were among those on hand as the Mavs Foundation built their 20th basketball court over the past 20 years during a brief ceremony. Also on hand were Floyd Jahner, who is the president of the Mavs Foundation, and Katy Slade, who is the chairman of the board of Uptown Dallas Inc.
Powell, who grew up in Toronto, Canada, told stories of how it was difficult to find an outdoors basketball court to play on because snow season lasted so long.
"We used to just get on the bus in the morning or get on the train and go up and down the (subway) line trying to find courts,’’ Powell said about his travels after the snow melted. "We would hear rumors about runs and we’d go check them out, and if we miss them, then we’d just play one-on-one until somebody showed up, or we got lucky and played and we’d be out there all day.
"We would go to 7-11 and get those big waters and just chilled all day. And that was all we did the whole summer.’’
In essence, Powell conveyed to the kids that although the NBA life has provided him with a very comfortable life, he didn’t grow up in a lap of luxury. Thus, he didn’t mind taking time from his busy schedule to instill some knowledge with the kids from the Boys & Girls Club of Dallas.
"There were few and far between, but now the communities are starting to buy in and see the value in them and I’m glad here they’ve seen that for some time now and it’s exciting,’’ Powell said, referring to the new basketball court. "It really is a sanctuary and it really is something that should be protected and something that should be cherished and something of great value to the community.
"Not just for the kids, but for everyone in general. It’s a great thing.’’
Powell recalls those days when the snow melted into water and the basketball court – when he and his friends could find one – was his sanctuary.
"Our shoes would be torn up just because you’re playing on concrete, and we had scabs up and down our legs,’’ Powell said. "But that’s what we loved to do, and those courts gave us opportunities.’’
While those courts gave Powell an opportunity, he took it a step farther and was able to seize the moment and garner a scholarship from Stanford. While at Stanford, Powell was the Pac-12 Scholar Athlete of the Year and a member of the Pac-12 All-Academic honorable mention team during the 2013-’14 season.
"I think the biggest thing right now for these kids is education and to focus on getting their grades straight and making that their priority,’’ said Powell, who was the 45th player chosen in the 2014 NBA Draft. "For a lot of these kids there are a lot of distractions, whether that’ll be among friends or family or the community, or whatever it may be that can be difficult to overcome.
"But I feel like through education, the opportunities and the doors open up, and they can overcome a lot of those things. But it definitely takes their willingness to dedicate themselves to what’s important, and the first step is trying to realize what’s important and genuinely understand it.’’
That gigantic step towards getting focused and getting prepared for the future, Powell said, sometimes can be a huge undertaking.
"The biggest thing I talk to kids back home is once you realize what it is you want and once you realize how you can get it, you have to be honest with yourself every single day you wake up in the morning,’’ Powell said. "You have to tell yourself the truth -- you can’t let people lie to you and tell you that it’s OK.
"You’ve got to understand what it takes and be honest and let yourself know if you’re not doing what’s necessary, if you’re not doing everything you can, you can’t be upset if you don’t reach your goal, because it’s on you. So the biggest thing is to be honest with yourself and hold yourself accountable.’’
That accountable, according to Blackman, is the backbone to success. Raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., and an NBA player from 1981-’94, Blackman remembers those stern talks coming from the elders when he was young and impressionable.
"I had people talking to me and giving me the focus,’’ said Blackman, who played for the Mavericks from 1981-‘92. "Even if you’re from the city and you’re doing your thing, you’re having some fun, you’re jive-talking and running around all over the place, it’s fine.
"But you’ve got to understand that the world of success and the world of application and the world of inclusion means that you’re an educated person and you’ll have an opportunity to help yourself, but also help another group in being that way. And you’ve got to take it through the educational path, which I think they need to know and understand that this is the way.’’
Dwain Price can be heard every Wednesday from 3-4 p.m. on dfwiradio.com