From the street to the Olympics


“There’s A Better Way” foundation is returning to Avondale continuing to bring basketball skills to the streets to help provide a new direction for disadvantaged young people.

The foundation, aka Better Way, is run by Glen Green MNZM (recognised with an Order of Merit for this work) and professional basketball player, Benny “B.J.” Anthony Jr. Together, they have worked in Avondale in one capacity or another for nearly seven years. The foundation has run several competitions locally and Benny takes free classes at the Sparks court every Sunday teaching young kids how to play.


Having grown up in Avondale, Benny says one of his key messages is the pride he has for his home suburb and he is pleased to be able to give back to it. “I look forward to being able to help kids here develop some fundamental basketball skills,” he says. “They don’t always get the same opportunities as other places because many of the families can’t afford it. And so, they’re not getting the basics they need to get past a certain level, and I think that’s what they deserve.”


Why basketball?


Inspired by Glen’s own journey in life, Better Way is an award-winning charity that helps kids from a tough background turn their lives around through the medium of playing this easy-access sport.


It is coupled with a kaupapa of “forgiveness” that helps players leave their life challenges behind them forging ahead through team support and the personal challenge of a hard game. In the suburbs where the foundation has taken hold, the crime rate has invariably dropped.


A former police officer, Glen says, “We used to lock up young offenders who were invariably wearing basketball tops - basketball is our point of connection.”


“I loved every part of being an officer,” says Glen, “but I felt I was often looking at my younger self when I looked into the faces of those kids and I wondered if, by offering them the same love and compassion I had received as a troubled 15-year-old on the courts, it wouldn’t help to similarly turn their lives around. We since discovered that there is something about the intent of sharing positivity and caring for others while on the court that people really respond to.”


After a Campbell Live interview with Glen ran on New Zealand television in 2012, the International Basketball Federation, FIBA, got in touch. Impressed by the ethos of the group, it offered the foundation the New Zealand rights to a faster, more powerful, new game it was launching called “3 on 3.” Its hope for the competition was that it would take people “from the streets to the Olympics” and the Better Way direction aligned nicely.

Soon after, the foundation held competitions around the streets and a New Zealand street team was found and funded to tour the first professional 3 on 3 international event in Russia. It made the quarter finals.


THE BRONX CONNECTION

While in Russian, Glen made the acquaintance of Aaron “The Problem” Williams, an elite street basketball player from New York who connected immediately to the kaupapa of the group. Glen was introduced to the New York scene and has since brought some of its top street players to New Zealand from the legendary Rucker and Dyckman Parks.

In 2016, The Den was launched at Pullman Park with the Bronx team playing the best from the streets of Auckland City. It is now in its third year. Recently pro player, David Seager, came out for a 1 on 1 competition, The Bronx vs Auckland.


The Better Way foundation has now established as a charity in the Bronx. Running the group there is Robert Johnson, a well-known street-baller and member of the NYPD. This month, Robert held the group’s first competition – a friendly between two rival communities who had been at war since the 1970s. Over 600 people attended the game including the heads of the police, representatives from local government, the Bank of America and, importantly, NBA TV.


“The Bronx connection is an important one,” says Glen, “as so many of our young people have seen these players in movies and social media and look up to them as role models.”

But New Zealand is not without its own professional sporting heroes. Homegrown professional, Benny Anthony Jr, has been a major asset to the trust since his involvement began two years ago. Benny says the work has changed him forever.


“Professional basketball doesn’t prepare you for life after the sport. I was kind of lost there for a while. I knew I wanted to help people somehow and when I met Glen, the stars aligned. It was exactly what I needed - to help people through Basketball, the thing I know best, and it’s been a big blessing.”


“For us to be able to work together and care for each other is actually massive in any community,” says Glen. “My hope is that there can be a better way for kids in this community through basketball. It changed my life around and so I’m passionate about it; I want to share that with others.”


Want to play ball? Benny and Glen can be found through their website – www.theresabetterwaynz.com, by emailing info.betterway@gmail.com or just rocking on down to the courts on Sunday.