By David Cordova
When people think of basketball in New York, they think of the leagues and the talent in the five boroughs. However, there is plenty of both in the suburbs, just north of the Bronx, in Westchester County.
At the Nepperhan Community Center up in Yonkers, there is an event in which players can come showcase their talents and also show off their art. The name of the event is the Neppa Gallery Tournament.
Now in its third year of existence, the Gallery tournament has become a good place to see some good action and get a good run in. But it is also a safe haven for the youth so they can come in and have a good time.
“Well, our mission here at the Neppa Gallery is to let people understand that basketball is art. It’s our outlet for our young kids to express themselves artistically, and basketball is the mode that we choose,” says Robert “Man” Richardson, the founder of the Gallery tournament.
Another thing that draws the interest of the tournament is the fact that it is sponsored by former NBA star Chauncey Billups and Ruff Ryders recording arist Jadakiss, who is a native of Yonkers.
“It means the world, it means that we’re doing the right thing,” says Richardson of having major celebrities sponsor the tournament, “When people of that stature see that we’re putting a product together like that and they support it, that means that we’re doing the right thing.”
But the question on a lot of people’s minds from the city is: “What’s so special about Yonkers?” Here’s Richardson view on that: “Yonkers is awesome. It’s known as the sixth borough. A lot of people from Brooklyn, the Bronx, Harlem. They think that Yonkers is 20 miles away, 40 miles away, but we’re right next door. So for us, it’s great to see them come up and love it. That’s our thing right there, we want them to say, ‘We love it up there,’ so we want them to keep coming back.”
On living in Yonkers: “On a regular day, Yonkers is real chill & laid back. It’s a beautiful place to live, it’s a lot of things going on, but a lot of positives too.”
On the basketball scene in Yonkers: “Basketball is crazy. I wouldn’t say that it’s equivalent to the city game, but we’re getting there. The city game is really influencing Yonkers a whole lot, so we’re starting to grow to that stature,” says Richardson.
On opening night, which started on Monday, July 17th, the energy was very prevalent at the Nepperhan Community Center’s outdoor court. Youths of all ages and adults had a lot of excitement on hand as the games were played. There was a lot of music, refreshments and good energy on hand, as well as the presence of Jadakiss.
Another thing that aided in the entertainment on the mic, which comes from Larry “Mic Larry” Agee, the emcee from the famed Entertainer’s Basketball Classic in Harlem. His commentary at the Gallery League brings a lot of excitement to the games and makes the kids ready and willing to put on a show.
“To me, it means my talent is being recognized, my gift is being sought after,” says Agee, “It was a pleasure to get a call from Man Richardson, the commissioner, to do the tournament and when Jadakiss co-signed it, it means a lot to me. Even when Chauncey Billups saying I’m good at what I do, even gave me a shoutout. So it means a lot to be there for the fans and the people of Yonkers.
Another question that one may have is, “What separates the Gallery League from a lot of other tournaments?” Richardson’s answer: “Honestly, I think the Gallery is the best. When you walk in here, you know you’re in a different place. You can ask anybody, they come here and say, ‘Wow, I’ve never seen anything like this,’ and that’s what separates us.”
Mic Larry’s comparison of EBC and the Gallery is like night & day. “The Gallery & EBC are two different leagues. One is legendary, and one is up & coming. EBC gave me a start to showcase my talents and the Gallery sees the hard work I had put in from EBC to all over,” he says, “The fans at EBC and the Gallery are very similar, they both love basketball and love to see good games. They both show love and the crowd participation is amazing.”
On keeping the crowd entertained, Agee said: “Me as an announcer, I have to not only announce the game on the court, but the game that’s in the crowd, that’s a whole game within itself keeping them involved and making sure they enjoy themselves and I love it when the lights are on, no matter where I’m performing.”
Transportation-wise, getting to the Gallery League is very easy to do in two ways: By taking the Westchester Bee-Line No. 1 bus from 242nd Street and Van Cortlandt Park in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, which leaves you right outside the center. Another option is the Metro North Hudson Line train, which drops you off at the Glenwood train station, which is a couple of blocks away. If you’re coming from the Bronx, the Metro North ticket could be as low as $3.
As the popularity of the tournament increases, there is no doubt that the Gallery League will continue to attract more crowds from the city and beyond and also more sponsors. Richardson’s main goal for the future is simple, “We’re going to be No. 1, I mean if you name any tournament, we’re going to be the No. 1 tournament. I guarantee you, we’re going to be No. 1.”
Highlights of the Gallery League:
Courtesy of The Gallery League.
Courtesy of Facey Love Hoops.
Courtesy of The Gallery Basketball League.