The Burke Basketball League has always prided itself on serving its constituent community. The recreational league has recently put on food drives, sponsored basketball shootouts, and played at halftime of George Mason basketball games to raise awareness and demonstrate service to various causes. But this year, the league decided to pursue another avenue of community support, creating an event that would benefit one of the most recognizable organizations in the country.
On Saturday, Burke Basketball held the first annual Jimmy V Foundation Tournament. At noon in the Robinson Secondary School gym, eight teams comprised from adults in several local leagues tipped off in an effort to raise money and awareness for the Foundation, which supports cancer research. Its namesake, appropriately, is basketball legend Jim Valvano, the beloved North Carolina State head coach who succumbed to his fight with cancer in 1993.
“Everyone knows Jimmy V… and the speech [at the 1993 ESPYs],” said Richard Esposito, Director of Community Relations for Burke Basketball. “This was a chance for us to give back to Jimmy V.”
Asked why he chose the fund specifically, league President Dave Baciocco cited the prevalence of cancer in the lives of millions of Americans: “At this age, we all know people who have affected by cancer.”
The league, he said, saw an opportunity to help families whose lives have been touched by the disease.
Baciocco said before tip-off that the tournament raised $1,000 through local sponsorships and contributions from the players and attendees. He and Esposito both emphasized their intent to develop a long-term, annual tournament with as much player and community participation as possible. Higher participation, the league feels, will yield more donations and, more importantly, a greater concern to support the Foundation and those whose lives it seeks to improve.
“Dave’s vision was to bring more of a community atmosphere to Burke Basketball,” said Esposito. “We have done several smaller events… in the Burke area, but we were hoping to find a project that would get more people involved, and not just the families of Burke Basketball.”
For all the feel-good vibes surrounding the anticipation of the tournament, the games were all business. Play began just after noon to cries of “Rebound! Rebound!” and “Get back on D!” Competitiveness ran high, and it should have - the field included several former college basketball players and athletic trainers. Still, everyone in attendance felt the weight of the cause and kept the tournament in perspective.
“At the end of the day, Burke Basketball is about the kids and about the community,” Baciocco said, staring out onto the courts busy with players laughing and high-fiving, giving back as best as they know how.