Davis spoke directly to the youth players, encouraging them to, "Work hard."
Photos by Sandra E. García
Summer's arrival brings the heat, especially at Dyckman Park.
Streetball's annual red carpet has been laid down at Dyckman Park, the site of the legendary Dyckman Games basketball.
And New York Knick Baron Davis came out to pay his respects.
"We want to support the community in New York, and Dyckman is the place to be," said Davis. "We are all bigger than our sport and our job."
The Dyckman Games are a historic part of summer time uptown.
The seasonal tournaments, which started as a small series of outdoor basketball games in the 1980's, are now a full-grown phenomenon that draws corporate sponsorship, media attention, and hoops stars.
Players from all over the world have graced the Dyckman Park courts under the 1 train, including this year's NBA Finals player Oklahoma City Thunder's Kevin Durant.
And people flock from all over to the Games to watch dynamic streetball players get their game on, defy gravity and claim local bragging rights.
The occasional visit by a professional NBA player also brings a few faces.
But Baron Davis, who suffered a knee injury during the season, did not come out to play.
Instead, Davis came out to Dyckman Park to support the young players whose passion for the game reminded him of his own childhood drive and ambition.
"I used basketball to get out of the world where I was," said a smiling Baron who chatted and posed freely with the many fans who vied for his attention. "The most important thing is to realize that this is a game but it's an opportunity for you to grow as a person."
As he sat in a designated booth on the court before the games began, Davis was surrounded by fans who crowded around offering basketballs, sports cards, hats, jerseys, book bags and T-shirts for him to sign.
Fans like Hiram Sanchez from Harlem and Oscar Pagoada from Chelsea had traveled north to visit the streetball mecca.
"Everyone knows about Dyckman Games. It's legendary," said Sanchez. "You can always expect a good turn out, and some amazing ball."
"I'm just here to see the ball," said Pagoada. "And get Baron Davis's signature."
For Inwood residents for whom Dyckman Park is home, the games are a part of their summer.
"I just go to Dyckmanpark.com and check the announcements," said northern Manhattan resident Herbert Martinez. "I think it's big that he's here. It makes me feel good to see a player that I like from the NBA so close to home."
For Davis, the visit was an opportunity to inspire urban youth to stay focused.
"I want to empower people and youth," he said, "Get in the community and make this a better place to live in."