WEST PARK – When Jason Phillips was growing up in the Miami area and visited the old Miami Arena in downtown Miami in the 1990s, he saw many people in his community could not go to basketball games and music concerts because they could not afford the ticket price.
Phillips promised himself that he would do something about it. It has taken about three years but Phillips’ dream finally come true when his Hoop Fest Miami 3-on-3 Basketball Experience took place at McTyre Park in West Park last Friday through Sunday.
“I just wanted to give back to the community,” said Phillips, 34, CEO and Founder of Hoop Fest Miami. “I’m just trying to do my part to encourage these kids to stay physically active.”
Phillips, a native of South Florida, said he wanted to use the excitement of the Miami Heat’s spectacular season, which ended with the NBA championship, to draw young athletes to play pickup basketball.
“My main concern was to bringing back street ball and encouraging kids to get out and stay active in the community,” Phillips said.
Fifteen three-man teams from across the country played in the 3-on-3 tournament.
Former Miami Heat player Mark Strickland, who was the presenter of the tournament, believes the event has room to grow.
“We want to get more teams coming from out of state from Dallas and Atlanta to see who is the best in street ball,” Strickland said.
Hip Hop artist Bow Wow, former Miami Heat guard Tim Hardaway and former Miami Dolphins wide
receiver Chris Chambers made an appearance during the weekend.
The Experience also included a youth basketball clinic, HIV testing, blood donation and performances by local artists and dance groups.
Also, Hoop Fest Miami teamed up with the American Cancer Society to conduct a mini Relay for Life on June 22 to spread information on the disease and commemorate those who have died from it.
“It’s important because a lot of people are not aware,” said Larry Rhodes, a relay participant.
Rhodes, 55, lost both his father and brother to cancer.
“Information is power,” he said. “People don’t have to die if (cancer) is caught early enough.”
Hoop Fest is planning to hold four events every year — in June, September, December and April.
*Photo of Jason Phillips