Four rival gangs, community and church leaders, and NBA superstars all joined together Saturday afternoon in a gym for a basketball tournament geared towards ending violence in Chicago.
“You walk in that gym and you see the passion, the excitement, you see the smiles on the kids’ faces, you see kids who used to shoot each other playing ball with each other, You see D-Rose and Joakim Noah,” said St. Sabina’s Father Michael Pfleger, who organized the event “Balling for Peace” and asked the NBA stars to get involved. “You tell me anything is wrong with this? I’m in heaven right now.”
Pfleger organized the monumental, one day gang truce in the city, which included 28 kids playing from different gangs in neighborhoods hit hard by violence and crime.
The event gained some NBA star power assists from Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson on the Chicago Bulls along with other Chicago NBA stars Antoine Walker, Quentin Richardson and the legendary Isaiah Thomas. All of the NBA players who showed up on Saturday coached the teams, spoke at the event and encouraged the young people playing in the Peace Basketball Tournament.
“I have been begging athletes to get involved and when they say yes, I’m grateful,” said Pfleger, who lost his adopted son Jarvis Franklin to gang violence in 1998.
No matter who wins the tournament, every player will get a job. St. Sabina has partnered with businesses in the community to make sure that players are rewarded with employment for their peace pledge.
Some community leaders who watched gang members trade their guns for basketballs on Saturday hope it sends a message to other gangs in the city.
“There’s life after basketball, but there is no life after discharging a weapon and taking someone else’s life,” said community activist Andrew Holmes, who was at the tournament to support the players.
Pfleger said he also working with players on the Chicago Bears to get them involved and host more events in the community.