THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

NBA stars show how really big they are

Open play center for Roxbury youth

By Brian R. Ballou
Globe Staff / June 10, 2010

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Headroom was at a minimum for many of the NBA players who showed up yesterday at the dedication of the Learn and Play Center at the Tobin Community Center in Roxbury.

But that didn’t stop Glen “Big Baby’’ Davis from stretching out to take on a 9-year-old boy in a game of table tennis.

Dressed in blue jeans and a T-shirt, Davis showed off his quick feet, returning serves from Brandon Guerrero and hitting a few winners.

“I’m taking him to school,’’ exclaimed the Celtics’ big man.

After the game, Brandon said: “It felt great to play him, but he did take me to school. I beat him a few times.

“This is my first time seeing NBA stars. I feel really excited to see them.’’

Davis and several other current and former NBA players, including teammate Brian Scalabrine and legends Julius “Dr. J.’’ Erving and Bob Lanier and NBA commissioner David Stern, encouraged dozens of children to focus on education and listen to their parents, as part of the NBA Cares program.

Before he played ping-pong, Davis spent about 20 minutes reading a book to about 20 students in a room decorated with Celtics championship banners, green and white balloons, and basketball rugs. As he read, Davis modulated his voice and flashed a variety of facial expressions, which captivated his young listeners.

Deputy Superintendent Willie Gross of the Boston Police Department praised the event, saying it was positive for young people in the communnity.

“We’ve all seen what’s been taking place over the last month or so,’’Gross said. “There’s a lot of youth violence, and some of those kids involved in youth violence seek extended families, and sometimes those are gangs. So you need places like this where kids can come.

“It’s not only about sports. They can play sports here, but look over there. That’s a learning center, and there are adults here who can teach them — many, many, many avenues to travel down besides participating in gang violence or just hanging in the streets.’’

The center is one of hundreds that the NBA Cares program has dedicated in recent years across the country. The program also provided computers, books, and equipment.

Stern said the aim of the centers is to provide children with a fun and safe environment where they can learn.

“These kinds of events make us, the NBA, better,’’ he said. “We get a chance to see what differences we can make in people’s lives.

“This is a tough time in this country, because the government can’t do it all, so the private sector has to help,’’ Stern said.

Brian R. Ballou can be reached at bballou@globe.com.

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