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The Stormin’ Norman Reunion Classic; A Basketball League, Turned Community Legacy

March 5, 2019

“The city is looking up. It’s like making a last-minute shot…the excitement you get, how the crowd cheers; that’s how I feel about Wilmington’s future!”

Over the weekend basketball lovers and community standouts alike gathered at the newly opened 76ers Fieldhouse to witness true Wilmington history-in-the-making. At 2 o’clock sharp longtime fan favorites and local celebrities took the court for the tip off that would officially begin Stormin’ Norman’s Reunion Classic; a 4-bracket basketball tournament that would ultimately bridge the city’s past with its present.

Once a staple for summer recreation, the Stormin Norman basketball league created in 1980 was an organization designed to unite Wilmington’s community during a time of crime and financial hardship for many living in and around the area. The league, led by its founder, Norman Oliver catered to the youth and married the ideas of academic success and healthy sports competitiveness.

Photo By: Robert Kaehler

For more than 20 years Norman and his elite team of dedicated coaches helped lead more than 2,000 children ranging from the ages of 9 to 16 to success on and off the courts, encouraging not only professional dreams but more importantly placing an emphasis on a lifelong career of community service. Norman’s philanthropic charter took the city by storm, and his passion for giving back created, and continued to fuel a sense of family amongst all.


In retrospect, the idea of a strong family bond has always ranked top of Norman’s list, as seen now through the relationship he and his sister Zanthia Oliver share. Much like the league, Zanthia’s support system has helped her build her own legacy as a political leader in Wilmington. Now a city councilwoman, Ms. Oliver makes it her duty to pour positivity into the city, and just as her brother did for so many years, she has been dedicated to the empowerment of our youth. Not only did Councilwoman Zanthia Oliver support from front and center-court, but she also arranged for children from the surrounding community to join her.

 

“We gave out about 400 tickets to children and their families, 150 of who actually attended with Parks & Recreation and I”, says Councilwoman Oliver who continued to speak very highly of the children in attendance. She explained that “in efforts to grant everyone involved in the festivities, the last minute change to eliminate the $10 ticket fee was necessary because we are promoting this fieldhouse as a facility made usable for all of the community!”

Photo By: Robert Kaehler


Another familiar face in attendance was Councilman Vash Turner, who doubled as a local celebrity with spectators at the game. Turner, who grew up playing on a Stormin’ Norman basketball team as an adolescent, felt praise from both his fellow previous teammates on the court and his now, teammates on the council. When asked about his take on sports and entertainment in regards to community growth, Councilman Turner replied with

Photo By: Robert Kaehler

“it brings comradery. One thing that Norman did was he didn’t allow us to play with our neighborhood friends. Instead, a draft was held, and that forced us as children to leave our comfort zones and build relationships with others we may not have normally engaged with.” During a follow-up question, Turner explained how the league helped mold him into the man he’s proud to be today. “Without this league, I don’t know where I would be– I definitely wouldn’t be in politics, as Stormin’ Norman was the one that made it favorable for me and the people in my community to want to become a politician. The city is looking up. It’s like making a last-minute shot…the excitement you get, how the crowd cheers; that’s how I feel about Wilmington’s future!”


With the community all on one accord, another means for celebration was in order. Just a day shy of her birthday, City Council President Ms. Hanifa Shabazz sat alongside her appointed council as the event’s commentator took center stage to initiate an arena-wide happy birthday wish to one of Wilmington’s most prominent figures. She later spoke with us about the importance of exposing the youth to character building activities such as organized sports. She went on to say that “something as simple as a basketball game gives one tools and life skills such as working as a team and supporting one another. Being here in a positive space surrounded by the people who’ve helped you become the way that you are, is a nice way to celebrate a birthday and the best way to celebrate life.”


From entrepreneurs and politicians to media outlets and artists, this reunion game acted as a catalyst for increased community involvement and brought together people from all walks of life. James Wyatt, a local painter was in attendance with original pieces of art up for auction. He handpainted a piece in front of a revolving live audience who resonated with the lively atmosphere he so eloquently captured on his canvas. For James, the Stormin’ Norman league has been a prominent part of his family history. With a sister who played as a child, James explained that for him, “everything relates back to a transfer of energy…it’s the running up and down the court, it’s the movement, it’s the positive vibes. Even though I didn’t play competitively, it’s the poetry of motion that I want to showcase. This environment has inspired me to offer my skill set to my community”. Jame’s artwork was auctioned off to the highest bidder, and in true Stormin’ Norman fashion, in return, all of the proceeds were generously donated to benefit the Boys & Girls Club City League.


This was a nail-biting game, with a final score of 48 to 45; just another win to add to Wilmington’s home team legacy!

 

By: Briana Harris | @brikeey | Photo By: Robert Kaehler