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THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre
THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

It’s not just Ladies who Love Cool James.

The rapper and actor, whose real name is James Smith, was surrounded by hundreds of male and female fans and residents for pictures and hugs as he made his way through Daniel O’Connell Park to watch the games of his 9th annual Jump and Ball Tournament on Saturday.

LL Cool J, who stars in “NCIS: Los Angeles,” started the tournament along with State Senator Malcolm Smith to give back to his community.

“There are a lot of artist who come out of southeast Queens, but I can tell you this is the only one I know who has stepped up and said ‘I want to give something back,’ and has stuck with it for nine years,” the senator said.

The event, which features basketball games every weekend until September 1, is free to register and participate. In past weeks there was also live music, free food and a variety of other family fun activities, including golf, chess, tennis, a karate showcase and rope tricks by Cowboy Curly Hall.

“I think it’s wonderful that he does this for the community,” said St. Albans resident Leticia Moore-Jackson. “He never forgot where he came from. He’s a great rapper, entertainer and a great person.”

Coming back home was special for James as well, because he said his schedule forces him to be everywhere around the country and sometimes abroad. He delivered a message to the children at the park about believing in your dreams, despite what others may say.

“Anything you really truly believe deep down inside you, you can accomplish,” he said. “And I don’t want you to ever think that because you’re from this neighborhood, my neighborhood, that you’re somehow relegated to only having a certain amount of success or you’re only able to do certain things based on where you’re from or the color your skin or what someone else says about you. Don’t believe that because it’s not true.”

James said the basketball tournament has turned into an important part of the year for the community and it is a significant event for him as well.

“This is the hood and basketball is just a big part of how we came up and how we grew up and I wanted to make sure that they had an opportunity to play and have fun,” he said. “I think they love it and I love it.”

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