All posts by Keith Giagnorio

J.B. Smoove: Actor, comedian, basketball fanatic

By Keith Giagnorio
Medill Reports

You can learn a lot about J.B. Smoove from watching him portray Leon Black on “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” the hit HBO comedy series he stars in alongside Larry David. Both Smoove and the fictional Leon share the same high energy, quick-witted, and simply hilarious personality. Both are incredibly engaging and command the attention of any room they enter. Both have unique (albeit in very different ways) fashion senses. But what you might not be able to glean from watching Smoove perform is his deep burning love for the game of basketball.

Smoove, whose real name is Jerry Angelo Brooks, started his relationship with basketball in the Levister Towers housing projects of New York suburb Mount Vernon when he was just 3 years old, shooting on flimsy hoops he and his brother fashioned out of wire hangers.

These days, Smoove’s personality and his passion for the game have made him a recurring character in the NBA universe, particularly during the league’s annual All-Star Weekend festivities. After making an impression for several years as one of the more vocal and animated of the many celebrity attendees of All-Star Weekend, Smoove got his chance to step onto the court during the 2019 Celebrity All-Star Game in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Smoove was even more prevalent during the 2020 All-Star Weekend in Chicago, talking basketball with Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnson on TNT’s “Inside the NBA,” and cracking jokes at the same program’s first ever NBA All-Star Roast. Though not a participant, Smoove was courtside for this year’s Celebrity Game and attended several other All-Star events, always dressed to the nines in a fresh suit, overcoat, and of course his signature sunglasses and black fedora.

Continue reading

Kobe Bryant’s legacy and presence felt throughout a meaningful NBA All-Star weekend

By Keith Giagnorio
Medill Reports

Every event of the 2020 NBA All-Star weekend was blanketed with melancholy air. Seemingly every show, contest and person associated with basketball’s most star-studded weekend paid homage to the late Kobe Bryant, as well as his daughter Gianna.

“It’s still very fresh in people’s minds and in people’s hearts, so he definitely has a big presence here,” said first-time All-Star Jayson Tatum, who idolized Bryant and had been training with him in recent years. “There’s so many Kobe jerseys here and tributes, as there should be.”

On January 26, the heartbreaking news that Kobe, 13-year-old Gigi, and seven others died in a helicopter crash sent people all over the planet into shock and mourning. Just three weeks later, the basketball world gathered in Chicago to compete on a stage where Bryant had long shined brightest: the NBA All-Star weekend.

Even though the Lakers legend is no longer here, there was no question that this weekend was all about Kobe. His larger-than-life presence inspired countless tributes and invoked the sharing of memories and stories about him throughout the weekend.

Continue reading

Basketball Without Borders brings the world’s best young ballers to Chicago

By Keith Giagnorio
Medill Reports

Walking into the Basketball Without Boarders Global Camp, comprised of young men and women from over 30 different countries, it would be easy to assume that there could be many language barriers to overcome. However, with the booming noise of basketballs bouncing throughout the gymnasium, the squeaking sound of sneakers across the hardwood, or the thunderous celebration after a dunk gets thrown down, it becomes clear that the only language necessary for the weekend is the language of basketball.

Basketball Without Borders, which is organized by the NBA and the International Basketball Federation (FIBA), held its sixth annual Global Camp during the All-Star weekend festivities from Friday to Sunday at Quest Multisport gymnasium on Chicago’s West Side. The camp invites the top 64 high school basketball players (32 boys and 32 girls) from all around the world to participate in the now All-Star weekend staple, giving them a chance to make new friends from across the globe, show off their skills to professional scouts, and learn from professional players and coaches.

Continue reading