Basketball does a good thing in the Bronx
At the opening of the Earl Monroe New Renaissance Basketball Academy
BY HENRY ABBOTT
With help from 80 or 90 of his closest friends and advisors, Dan Klores opened a high school designed to prepare students for the jobs in basketball that are not playing.
At the ribbon-cutting in the gym of the Earl Monroe New Renaissance Basketball School today in the Bronx, NBA commissioner Adam Silver noted that for every player in basketball, there are 100 more jobs off the court. Are there really 45,000 jobs in and around the NBA?
Maybe. Many of those who showed up in support walked that walk: Silver, NBA Players Association executive director Michele Roberts, and most of the Knicks’ front office: Scott Perry, Leon Rose, Allan Houston, and William Wesley. They stood like sentries to the right of the stage, facing more than a hundred ninth graders who would like their jobs.
Klores is a fascinating NBA figure. Remember that documentary Basketball: A Love Story? He made that. And the 30 for 30 about Reggie Miller vs. the Knicks. He has written several plays, including one that debuted with Adam Driver in the lead role. Google will turn up photographs of Klores with everyone from Howard Stern to Harvey Weinstein. Somehow Paul Simon is one of his best friends and helped start his career. There’s also a big office in midtown Manhattan full of all the people who work for him doing … marketing I think?
Just after the ribbon cutting, before a few hundred people in masks, I told him that he was crazy to do this. What do you mean? He asked. Starting a high school as a side hustle? There’s something totally dauntless about Dan.
“This has been an eight-year battle to get this school open,” he said in his remarks to the group. “We have been knocked down, knocked out, bloodied, we have been lied to.”
Klores’ network essentially is the NBA’s network. He mentioned the 80 or 90 trustees and advisors of the school, who he called a championship team. They include all kinds of well meaning and highly qualified people, as well as (the NBA being the NBA) some who take a little of the shine off the good vibes, like Jeffrey Epstein’s lawyer Gerald Lefcourt, senior advisor to Apollo Global (whose founder Leon Black funded Epstein) Reggie Love, and the Gates Foundation. Bill Gates has had his own Epstein entanglements.
“I wanted to quit they said no no you can’t quit,” Klores explained. “Keep dreaming, keep fighting … you are the reason that we kept fighting.”
I attended the event in part to see it, and to write a story like this. But also to just show up at a post-pandemic NBA event after writing all this crazy Epstein NBA stuff (which is ongoing). I am alarmed at some of the people who are central and celebrated in the NBA. I am not even a tiny bit conflicted about this game, though, which I will always love.
It would be good, I thought, to just go to a basketball thing, and re-connect with what’s good, to see some familiar faces, and watch the sport work its magic.
A huge win for basketball positivity: within a few minutes of arriving I met NYU professor David Hollander, who teaches a class called How Basketball Can Save the World.” Sounds good.
A surprise: The biggest cheer of the day came not from the introductions of Earl the Pearl, Allan Houston, or Bronx native Michele Roberts.
The biggest cheer came from Adam Silver greeting the students. In many ways he’s the most currently famous person there. (Also, if it’s about jobs in the NBA, he has juice.)
Almost every speaker mentioned books. The ball and the book. Keep reading, keep dreaming, and you can do anything. Would the book message resonate with ninth graders?
Of course when Earl Monroe was in high school, he was laser focused on a particular NBA job. But if he were like the students in the gym today, aiming for a different job … which job would that be? “I’d be general manager,” he told me after the event, “that’s the going thing today. Certainly it’s something these kids can aspire to be seeing the Knicks general manager here today.” Who were some of the non-players who meant a lot to Monroe while he was in the NBA? “Well, obviously, the trainers, they kept you going.” He mentioned longtime Knick trainer Mike Saunders, photographer George Kalinsky, and “the PR people.”
Spouses were a theme. “The one person I’ve got to thank because she puts up with me day and night and that’s my wife Abbe,” said Klores. “She’s unbelievably supportive. We’ve got a piece of art in our living room that sets the ground rules and it says—a piece of pop art—and it says: ‘Marriage is a relationship where one person is always right, and the other is the husband.’”
At one point, Klores asked Earl Monroe’s wife Marita to stand up. People clapped. When Monroe himself spoke, and said it was good Dan had done that. Why? Because when Monroe had his Knicks jersey retired, he neglected to mention Marita. Same thing when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Klores has done some good.
Before I hopped in the car, my own wife Jessica noted that the school’s big challenge would be the same as every other New York charter school: New York’s standardized tests. New schools don’t get a lot of leeway to find their sea legs. After the event I suggested to Klores that a lot of the NBA jobs of the future might require science degrees. He said he totally believed that, but that for the next few years nothing would matter except getting reading scores up. I’m guessing that’s why books came up so much throughout the talk. The education was already underway.
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