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Sports Stars Dedicate DreamCourt

Derek Jeter, Nancy Lieberman Hope Northeastern Basketball Court Is a Place to Grow

A new basketball court on Kalamazoo’s Eastside is not just a place for kids to play ball but for them to build dreams and remember the dreams of others.

New York Yankees star and Kalamazoo Central alum Derek Jeter and Basketball Hall of Famer and two-time Olympian Nancy Lieberman were in Kalamazoo on Sept. 1 for the dedication of a new basketball court at Northeastern Elementary School.

The basketball court was built with the support of the Nancy Lieberman Foundation and Jeter’s Turn 2 Foundation. The multi-use basketball court will serve the entire community, especially those programs run by the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Kalamazoo.

At the dedication ceremony, Lieberman talked about her childhood, growing up poor, discovering her love of sports, and honing her skills at Rucker Park in Harlem. She held fast to her dreams and encouraged the young people in the audience to do the same.

“I had nothing but I had everything,” she said. “I had these guys who looked different from me but who believed in me. This dream, this dream court with my partners, WorldVentures Foundation, is real meaningful to me. You can read on this piece of paper all the really nice things that have happened to me in my life. I’m just blessed to be a kid, a girl from New York that something special happened and God blessed. Lift when you rise. Lift when you rise. When good things happen to you take other people with you.”

Her abilities eventually turned into a career as a college player at Old Dominion University, a two-time Olympian, a member of the Women’s National Basketball Association, a commentator for ESPN and Fox Sports, and now an assistant coach for the Sacramento Kings. Lieberman’s foundation has been creating DreamCourts in underprivileged communities since 2010. The Kalamazoo location is the foundation’s 30th basketball court.

Jeter was in town not just for the basketball court ribbon-cutting but to participate in the 13th annual Kalamazoo Baseball Clinic at Mayors’ Riverfront Park and the Nickelodeon “Road to Worldwide Day of Play,” event held at the Kalamazoo County Expo Center & Fairground, which were both held on Aug. 31. This year is also the 20th anniversary of the Turn 2 Foundation.

“This dream court is a tremendous thing for our foundation and a good moment for the community,” Jeter said. “This is a place where not only the kids can come play ball but they can learn and grow, and they can develop friendships and they can achieve their goals. I think this is something the kids in the community will really enjoy.”

Robert Ezelle, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club, said the DreamCourt will have a lasting impact on the neighborhood. “When you have something like this in the neighborhood and people have generously contributed to the betterment of a neighborhood, it only goes to build that neighborhood and the strengths of that neighborhood.”

Ezelle will be retiring at the end of the year, and the Lieberman Foundation also made a $10,000 donation to the Boys & Girls Club in honor of his career.


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