With a league comprised of seasoned players, doctors, lawyers, stock brokers, businessmen, police officers, coaches, and educators, the Windy City Senior Basketball League has provided opportunities for players ages 50 through 80 from diverse backgrounds, to experience both the fountain of youth and a game they love to play the most: basketball.
Enter “Sweet” Charlie Brown, the leader of the group and one of the league’s founding fathers. Brown was honored Monday night, March 9, at Washington Park, for his hard work, dedication, charity, and the love he’s demonstrated for the senior community throughout the decades. Brown was presented with a plaque by one of the league’s top players and MVP, Lloyd Batts.
“I decided since the passing of our dear friend and player Kobe Bryant, I thought it was time to recognize somebody special in the gym,” said Batts, during the center court presentation held at the Washington Park Gymnasium at 55th and King Drive. “And that is Charlie Brown.”
Brown, a former basketball star and stand out from 1950 through 1954 at DuSable High School, became a city legend and state icon after leading an all-Black high school team to a state title appearance in 1954.
Brown’s long-time friend and league co-founder Mickey Rotman, a Chicago attorney and a former high school standout for Roosevelt High School back in the early 50s, was one of Brown’s Public League rivals during that run. Rotman was part of a team that featured an all-white roster made up of mostly Jewish players who competed against Brown.
“Charlie has organized the league to include all of us as family,” said Tony Brooks, sports journalist for the Windy City Senior League. “We have become such great friends as players and competitors to a point where we attend family events of other players, funerals, weddings, house warmings.”
Brooks said the league has become such a fraternity that players support each other at both outside functions and sporting events. This includes golfing and charity outings.
“The regular season is 10 weeks,” said Brooks. “Which begins in the first week of March and ends at the end of May. And the championship game is held the first week of June.”
Players compete up and down the court playing league games from March through May. They are joined by players from around the country, who go back at it during a three-day weekend tournament in mid-August.
The tournament, known as the Windy City Shoot-Out, began in 1990; it was followed by the formation of the Windy City Senior Basketball League in 1995.
There are 10 teams in the division, Gold and Blue, named in honor of two of the league’s co-founders. The Hank Clark Memorial Division is for players 50 and up, the Leroy Brown Memorial Division is for players 60 and up.
The summer tournament has brackets for 50 plus, 60 plus, 65 plus, and 70 plus, and divisions with varying numbers of teams in each.
“Charlie went on to play at the University of Seattle and played with NBA Legend Elgin Baylor back in 1958,” Brooks said.
Both Baylor and Brown led Seattle University to a national championship title appearance in 1958 where they lost to Adolph Rupp and the Kentucky Wildcats, prior to Glory Road.
In addition to Brown’s basketball legacy, Brown’s brother, Herb Brown, was the legendary coach responsible for leading the Wendell Phillips Wildcats boys’ basketball team to their first ever state title back in 1975.
Prior to the event, Brown said he was honored and grateful for the award, and hopes to assist many more people in the near future.
“We started with a team of guys and now we have a family,” said Brown in a past interview. “A huge family.”
For more information about the Windy City Senior League contact Tony Brooks at [email protected].
Joseph Phillips is the Sports Editor for the Chicago Crusader Newspaper. He is a Chicago native, who has been a sports writer for over 17 years. He also hosts the SC Media News and Sports Network Q&A radio show on WHPK 88.5 FM Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected].
Joseph Phillips is the Sports Editor for the Chicago Crusader Newspaper. He is a Chicago native, who has been a sports writer for over 17 years. He also hosts the SC Media News and Sports Network Q&A radio show on WHPK 88.5 FM Chicago.