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2000 Welcome back to Brooklyn Festival
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Back to Brooklyn 2000
Section guide

• 2000 Back to Brooklyn Home

The Streetplay Scoop
• Joe Viterelli: the basics
• Lenny Wilkens & stickball
• Orphans of the Steeplechase

• Celebrity Path
• The Games
• Festivities
• A Star Studded Evening

Related links
• 1999 Back to Brooklyn

Streetplay events: Section guide

• Streetplay Events home
• Bronx Street Festival '05
• Bronx Street Festival '04
• Back to School '04
• Back to School '03
• Williamsburg's 100th
• PS 56 After School
• Skully at the AMNH
• NY Historical Society
• Smithsonian Festival
• Back to Brooklyn '00
• Back to Brooklyn '99
• Back to Brooklyn '98

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Stickball, basketball and a good friend

Lenny Wilkens recalling playgrounds, friends and growing up
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Lenny Wilkens recalling playgrounds, friends and growing up
At this year's Welcome Back to Brooklyn Festival, we had an opportunity to talk with Lenny Wilkens, the winningest coach in NBA history and Brooklyn native. He talked about the games he played growing up, like stoopball, stickball, and handball. When we handed him a spaldeen, he recalled some interesting memories.

Gosh, the last time I played stickball was probably back in college around 1960. In Providence all the guys from the NY area would get together on Saturday afternoons to play. Many of the students from the campus would come down and watch us too. I don't think they had ever seen the game before.

We'd play two kinds of stickball; we'd use a spaldeen for games with pitching on a bounce and we'd use a tennis ball for fast pitch, where we'd draw a box and pitch against the wall. We'd play all day, I guess it reminded us of home.

Stickball, handball, and basketball were my games. The schoolyards and playgrounds were where I learned to play basketball. You would get to play by calling next. You had to pair up with some good players to have a chance to win and take the court. I didn't get a chance to play that often because the other players didn't pass me the ball too much. They said I would just take all kinds of shots and called me a "heaver."

At Boys High I had tried out for the freshman basketball team but hadn't made it. And unlike most of the other players, I had to work after school. So, while I got to play at the Boys Club, and the Catholic Youth Organization, I wasn't putting in the time as some of the other guys.

Luckily for me a good friend of mine kept telling me to try out for the High School Basketball team. Finally in my senior year I did try out, made the team and then was fortunate enough to get a scholorship to play at Providence. I always mention my friend, because his needling spurred me on and helped me to realize so many of my dreams. And I must tell you that while I was a really good stickball player, both a hitter and a fielder, he was a really great stickball player, perhaps the best I've seen. His name is Tommy Davis and as you know, he played ball for many years after high school.

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