The legacy of the Boston Neighborhood Basketball League
When the ball tips off July 11, the Boston Neighborhood Basketball League will begin its 54th year of competition (minus 2020 due to COVID). Established in 1969, the BNBL is the oldest neighborhood basketball league in the United States.
Thousands of young male and female basketball players have competed in this event since its origin, with many going on to play college and professional basketball.
The most dynastic program is the Mission Hill Warriors (formerly the Titans), with 34 overall championships — some years dominating the three age divisions. The Warriors’ title run began in 1987 with co-coaches John Jackson and Ron Bell. Chuck Davis, Ken “Juice” Johnson, Jamal Galloway and others also gained notoriety as championship coaches for Mission Hill.
John Jackson holds the distinction of winning the first championship for both Mission’s young men and women. The Lady Warriors, led by Sheylani Peddy, currently of the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, won the program’s first of five titles (13 and under division) in 2001. Rufus Rushins and Hector Galarza also coached the Lady Warriors to championship titles.
Jackson, the current director of the Tobin Community Center in Mission Hill, credits the hunger and drive for the success of the many great players who have worn the red and black of the Warriors.
“Mission has had a machine over the years, due to generations of great talent. That talent is developed by playing all day and night. From years past to present day, just about anywhere basketball is played, these young people can (and) are polishing their skills,” Jackson, who has played and coached in the BNBL, said with justifiable pride.
“When I think of the names that forged the ‘Mission Hill Legacy,’ names like John Sealy, Kenny Walker, Ron Jackson, Wendell Jackson, Tony Latson, Butch Wade, Dana Rice, Frankie Patton, Wayne Turner, Shabazz Napier, Will Blalock, Mike Lee, and so many others, with some going on to play in the NBA, I can’t help but beam with pride,” Jackson said. “I think of how the BNBL has grown since I first played in it and where it is today, with thousands of names on its roll of honor; I am proud to be able to say I was part of its history.”
Turner was a two-time NCAA Division 1 champion at Kentucky. At UConn, so was Napier, who was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four in 2014.
That history is changing with the overall changing racial makeup of Mission Hill. With different ethnic groups dominating the current landscape and many African American families moving away, teams will have a different racial and ethnic composition. But Jackson said: “We still expect the Warriors basketball program to compete at a high level.”
The young men and women of the Mission Hill team will put their roundball reputations on the line when this year’s games begin just days from now.
The Mission Hill basketball legacy moves on in the BNBL.