PUBLISHED June 29, 2018 | News
Basketball Hall of Famer and BIG3 coach set to host clinics in Frisco
For the 61st time, she laid a foundation.
She spoke about being a giver instead of a taker, about her longtime friend Muhammad Ali and the lessons he left her, about love and triumph in the face of differences and adversity.
She spoke directly to children from the Boys and Girls Club of Collin County, gathered around her feet and looking on from the surface of something she urged them to use and to protect – her 61st “Dream Court.”
In a ceremony at Shawnee Park in Plano Monday, basketball Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman, along with Ira Kravitz, whose family’s gift made the court possible, Plano Mayor Harry LaRosiliere and Plano Chief of Police Greg Rushin, dedicated the court and officially opened it for play.
“Kids need a place to play,” Lieberman said. “Life’s about competition. … I feel blessed and humbled to be able to say this is our 61st court. We have over 2.4 million children on our courts. It’s crazy.”
Lieberman, a product of Far Rockaway High School in New York City, knows the difference a safe haven of concrete and competition can make. The “Dream Court” at Shawnee may be made of a high-tech “PowerGame” surface, installed by Sport Court, but the principle is the same.
“This is my life. This is where I started. This is where I was safe – on a basketball court, between these lines,” Lieberman said. “When I got on the court, it was equality. It was inclusion, and it helped build my confidence and self-esteem. … It taught me all the characteristics of life – competing, just being mentally tough, and believing in myself.”
Aside from being a safe place for play among Plano’s youth, Lieberman said the space is geared toward being a meeting point for Plano police officers and the communities they serve.
It’s part of Lieberman’s “Kids & Cops” initiative, described as being aimed at “fostering positive relationship development between youth and police across our country.”
“In my generation, police were heroes. In this generation, sometimes, police are adversarial. It shouldn’t be that way,” Lieberman said. “Most police officers sign up to serve and protect. Not to say that there aren’t bad eggs – that’s just life. We want to see cops on this court. We want to see them hand-in-hand with children and parents, building bonds, finding some understanding [and] leading with love and kindness.”
A decorated pioneer in the game of basketball, Lieberman has broken ground for women in the sport on many fronts. She was just the second woman to join an NBA coaching staff when she signed on as an assistant with the Sacramento Kings, and was the first to be the head coach of an NBA developmental league club when she took the helm of the Texas Legends in 2009.
Now, she’s coaching legends of the game as part of Ice Cube’s 3-on-3 league, the BIG3. Lieberman leads the Power, which includes former NBA players like Corey Maggette, Cuttino Mobley and Chris Andersen.
“They see me as coach. They know I’m a woman, but they see me as their coach. Gender does not matter,’” she said. “I know I’m a woman. It’s normal to me. I’ve been doing this my whole life. I’ve been on the court with men since I was 8 years old. There’s nothing special – it’s what I do.
“For the 16,000 people watching the game and seeing me coach, it’s like, ‘My gosh, she’s a woman. She’s coaching men.’ It’s not normal to the public at large. So I guess it’s my job, in a normal way, to make people go, ‘OK, yeah. Nancy’s just coaching the team.’”
In addition to her Dream Court, Lieberman will serve Plano and the surrounding communities this summer by hosting her annual skills camps, to be held July 16-19 and Aug. 7-10 at Fieldhouse USA in Frisco.
This summer will be the first she’ll be joined by her son TJ Cline, who plays overseas in the Israeli Premier League.
“We’ve been doing these camps 38 years, and I’m at every camp,” Lieberman said. “Now, to have TJ – all he knows is Plano. … We want little girls to know not to be afraid to compete against little boys. We want young African American boys, little white girls, Asians, Latinos – we want them to know that sports is a melting pot. If the world was like sports, we’d see each other differently.”
The camps are open to boys and girls ages 5-17 and cost $190 (including a $75, non-refundable deposit to secure a spot). Registration is available online.