Chicago Bulls forward Taj Gibson and coach Tom Thibodeau were among hundreds of attendees at a Friday funeral for a 6-year-old Brooklyn boy stabbed to death in a public housing project elevator.
Prince Joshua Avitto and his 7-year-old playmate, Mikayla Capers, were attacked in an East New York building on Schenck Avenue in East New York on Sunday.
Avitto is Gibson's cousin, who he referred to as "PJ."
Gibson, who is from Brooklyn, said of the boy, "He would be like, 'Cousin Taj, pick me up. I'm Superman.'"
"That's what gets me every time," he said. "I know him from being Superman. He's invincible."
"It was like he was my age. That's how I looked at it," he said, adding: "It's hard being here around my aunt. She's the strongest woman in my family 'cause she raised all of us. It's hard to be here."
Mayor de Blasio and the Rev. Al Sharpton attended a private wake before the funeral. The line of relatives, friends and community members stretched around the block outside the St. Paul Community Baptist Church in East New York.
Neighbor Barbara Gholston said she suspected there would be a big turnout for PJ, who she described as "such a sweet kid."
His preschool teacher Janet James said "he was loved by so many, a loving little boy."
Slideshows of the smiling boy were displayed above the church's main stage; a relative held a poster of Spider-man, one of the child's favorite comic book characters.
"We've come today to celebrate P.J.'s life," the Rev. David Brawley said. "But we must acknowledge that his life was ended way too soon."
There was some at least a piece of good news during the service: PJ's 7-year-old best friend who survived the stabbing, Mikayla Capers, is out of ICU. The announcement touched off a "jubilant" moment among those gathered, according to Brawley.
On Thursday, police charged Daniel St. Hubert, a 27-year-old parolee, with murder and other crimes in the Sunday death of P.J. and the critical wounding of Mikayla. Capers suffered a collapsed lung in the attack.
St. Hubert was arrested Wednesday night in Ozone Park, hours after authorities said preliminary DNA from the knife recovered at the elevator attack scene matched his DNA in a database.