By Mike Zimmer, President, U.S. Large Enterprise Operations
(From the editor: In the photo above, second graders from Brooklyn’s P.S. 38 participate in drills during a recent Xerox Fantasy Camp on the Barclays Center practice court.)
When you open up a discussion with second graders, you never know where it will go. And when the discussion is with Albert King, former basketball star with the New Jersey (now Brooklyn) Nets of the National Basketball Association (NBA), the adult side of the conversation may follow an unexpected path as well.
That’s where we found ourselves on a recent Monday morning at the Barclays Center, the home of the Brooklyn Nets and the New York Islanders professional hockey team. Xerox and the Nets were hosting a Xerox Fantasy Camp on the Nets practice court for about 30 second graders from P.S. 38, which is about five blocks from the arena.
The students were participating in a series of activities to teach them about health, fitness, good nutrition, teamwork and academic excellence. A healthy breakfast was served, and later a healthy lunch. In between they participated in a series of stretching exercises, relay races, basketball drills and pep talks led by Nets trainers, coaches from Unity Sports, Xerox volunteers—and Albert King.
King had a 10-year career in the NBA and also starred at the University of Maryland and Fort Hamilton High School in Brooklyn. He is still considered one of the best high school basketball players of all time. And he grew up in the Fort Greene neighborhood of Brooklyn, which borders the Boerum Hill neighborhood where the students attend P.S. 38. So his talk was especially relevant.
He told the students that they are fortunate to live at a time when people pay more attention to how diet affects performance than in his day—and that they should take advantage of it. He told them that they will grow old faster than they think, and that one day they won’t be as pretty and handsome as they are today or as able to play basketball. Making healthy choices now will put them in a better position to adjust to their changing circumstances—as King adjusted after retiring from basketball by entering a second career as the owner of several area restaurants.
And King took questions.
“How do you beat LeBron James?” one student asked.
Of course, Albert King never played against King James. But he did face off many times against Michael Jordan.
“Let me tell you a quick story,” King began. “You’ve heard of Michael Jordan?” The students screamed that they had.
“One day I was playing against Michael Jordan, alright? I think the score was 96 to 95. Five seconds were on the clock. I had the ball on the right side. I’m telling you, Michael Jordan. You remember how tall he was and how high he jumps? I took off. Right here by the foul line.” King pointed to the spot on the court. “And Michael was under the basket. He jumped. You know what I did? I dunked on him.”
“Awesome!” shouted one student.
“After it happened,” King continued, “I took my PlayStation—because I was playing on a PlayStation—and I just went to do something else. I never dunked on Michael Jordan. Michael Jordan was a great player, and LeBron James is a great player, too.”
At an event that many of those second graders will remember for a lifetime, that was another healthy choice they learned about: You don’t try to dunk on Michael Jordan or LeBron James.