A hotly contested basketball game between young men in green and blue uniforms in New York City traditionally involves the Knicks and Boston Celtics.
But the game played Monday night between teams at a Jamaica gym had just as much intensity, just as much pride and a lot more fun going for it.
The men are clients of SCO Family of Services, a Long Island-based organization that offers and manages programs for the developmentally disabled in the metropolitan area.
What began last year as a basketball clinic run for SCO clients turned on Monday into their first fully organized game, with standard basketball rules, a referee and a packed house in the gymnasium of St. Bonaventure-St. Benedict the Moor Church on 110th Avenue in Jamaica.
Michael Spivey and Justin Reyes, employees of SCO, organized the basketball program a year ago for the men, who range from 21 to 39 years old. They are living in four homes with the aim of transitioning into less supervised conditions in the community.
“The idea was to promote healthy lifestyles and equal opportunity,” Reyes said. “This lets them come together, be a part of something.”
They are able to use the gym free of charge. The Rev. Gordon Kusi, pastor of the church, said he was glad to offer support for the program.
“I worked at the Brooklyn Developmental Center for 10 years, so I had a special interest in helping out,” Kusi said. “I wanted to do whatever I could. When they wanted to come here, I decided to go ahead.”
Spivey said the sessions of drills and practices were an instant hit with the men, and many have developed exceptional skills. That, he said, along with the competitive spirit that had built up, led to Monday’s game before scores of friends and family members.
“There will be a lot of trash talking,” Reyes said as the men went through their pregame layup drills. “We just want them to keep it clean.”
The proud coaches said they hope word gets out to other organizations serving similar clientele with the aim of eventually getting games against other teams in the future.
“That’s the idea,” Spivey said. “We’ve got guys with skill. One guy is about 6-foot-4. Some others are lightning fast. Other teams might want to play three or four games before they play our guys.”