Turner Broadcasting and NBA on TNT legend Ernie Johnson, Jr. asked two groups of children sitting on a basketball court at The Villages of Carver Family YMCA who the Hawks were representing when they play.
Johnson was there as the moderator for a press conference to publicly announce a jersey patch partnership between the Atlanta Hawks and YMCA. Johnson answered his own question, which was part rhetorical, part supportive.
“You, you, and you, you and you too,” said Johnson, who pointed at the children lined up on either side of the basket. “Everybody has a YMCA story somewhere in their past.”
Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens, Hawks principal owner and governor Tony Ressler, Hawks and State Farm Arena CEO Steve Koonin, former Hawks star Kevin Willis and YMCA of Metro Atlanta CEO and President Lauren Koontz were among the people on hand for the press conference.
Speaking on the partnership, Koontz said the YMCA and Hawks past relationship was, “a successful partnership” and that this new deal would help “introduce the YMCA to the next generation. It allows the YMCA to continue to have a positive impact on youth development.”
The “Y’ logo will rest on the upper right of both the Atlanta Hawks and College Park Skyhawks jerseys. Mannequins for both teams’ jerseys were on display Monday afternoon, along with appearances by Hawks mascot Harry the Hawk, Colli Hawk, the Skyhawks’ mascot and Hawks in-game arena announcer Big Tigger.
The terms of the jersey patch deal were undisclosed. The team’s previous jersey patch deal was with Sharecare.
The city of Atlanta, the YMCA and the game of basketball have a long history. Koontz mentioned that there was a “basketball demonstration” for the first time in Atlanta at the YMCA located between Pryor and Wheat streets on March 24, 1893.
Hawks players Trae Young, who has a YMCA branch with his name on it in Norman, Oklahoma, rookie guard Kobe Bufkin, and Hawks General Manager Landry Fields took turns telling their own YMCA stories. All three agreed that their time at the YMCA was an important piece of their respective basketball stories.
“With my dad playing at the YMCA, that was kind of an introduction to the game for me,” Fields said.
“It was just a place for me that inspired me to build my own YMCA,” said Young. “It’s a place that started my basketball career.”
Video of Young playing bitty-ball at a YMCA in his native Norman went viral on X this morning.
Bufkin, who is out of the lineup with a broken thumb on his shooting hand, said of his YMCA experience as a youth, “I couldn’t imagine myself without it.”
Atlanta hosts Indiana Tuesday and Brooklyn Wednesday. The team will return for action after Thanksgiving Saturday in Washington and Sunday in Boston.