The Original Ballers: The Harlem Renaissance

Growing up in the DC area with the last name Rodman came with two inevitable questions: Are you related to Dennis?  Or, does your family own the drugstore Rodman*s?  To my knowledge the answer to both questions is ‘no.’  To this day when I am asked my name by a customer service representative on the phone, my go-to response is “My last name is Rodman, like Dennis, R-O-D-M-A-N.”  It’s just easier for me to say it and ward off the question.

As a youngster I loved playing sports.  I went to a very small private school and had the opportunity to play on multiple teams: basketball, volleyball, field hockey, softball, track.  Basketball was my favorite sport, and with my last name I found it only fitting to crash the boards and rebound.  At one moment in my high school basketball “career” I was one of the top 10 rebounders in my county.  I learned to box out and probably swung my elbows a bit more than my opponents would have liked, but as a Rodman it made sense.  Dennis made his reputation as a hard-nosed rebounder and lead the league in rebounding for several years.  If there was any part of Dennis Rodman’s reputation I’d want to claim, it would be his defensive skills.

With hoops on my mind, I wanted to pay homage to Robert L. “Bob” Douglas, known as “The Father of Black Professional Basketball.”  He owned and coached the very first all-Black professional basketball team.  On this day in 1923, the New York Renaissance aka “The Rens” basketball team was established.  At the time, the team used the Renaissance Casino and Ballroom in Harlem as its home court, sharing the floor with entertainers like Count Basie.

Harlem Renaissance Casino and Ballroom from the 1920s

The Harlem Rens

I tip-off my jersey sleeve to Mr. Douglas for being a visionary and his pioneering spirit.  Taking the risk of going on the road and facing discrimination during that era was gutsy, or shall I say ballsy.

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