It’s not every day any New York Knicks player is spotted in Riverdale, let alone on the basketball courts of any school. But on May 21 they came to help a 16-year-old Horace Mann School sophomore raise funds for a local cause.
Danny Cornstein, who is chairman of the Courts of Dreams junior board, set his sights on fixing the Woodlawn Playground basketball courts in Van Cortlandt Park as his next endeavor. Cornstein says the more than $100,000 raised from the event are earmarked for the Van Cortlandt Park Alliance to help refurbish the two outdoor basketball courts. The groundbreaking ceremony for both courts will take place on June 2 ahead of their opening in September.
“We found these two courts that were really run down with cracks in the ground and with no nets,” Cornstein said.
The Courts of Dreams, which was founded by his parents Marc and Natasha Cornstein in 2008, is a local non-profit dedicated to refurbishing outdoor basketball courts around New York City. In January, the keys to the organization were bequeathed to Danny, who got an early start loving basketball from Marc’s career as an NBA agent.
“Our family has been involved in basketball ever since I was born,” Danny Cornstein told The Riverdale Press. “So, being able to combine the great sport of basketball and giving back is so meaningful for my family. The goal of Courts of Dreams is to restore basketball courts in underprivileged communities, especially during COVID-19 (where) they’re a safe haven for every kid.”
It took nine months to bring the festivities to fruition. But it was worth the wait for the Cornstein family, who were joined by current Knick Miles McBride as well as former players shooting guard John Starks and center Samuel Dalembert, who are both on the advisory board for Courts of Dreams.
“I’ve always been watching the Knicks so this is so cool having them here helping us with this event,” Cornstein said. “I feel like I’m a Knick.”
The event began with a Q & A featuring Starks and Dalembert. Answering questions from campers, the two ex-Knicks players fondly recalled their time with the franchise and their individual journeys to the NBA. For Starks, a fan favorite, it was mostly about his legendary dunk over Michael Jordan in Game 2 of the 1993 Eastern Conference Finals, and his relationship with Hall of Famer Patrick Ewing, who he called a “true warrior.”
Dalembert, a 12-year NBA veteran, is a former client of Marc Cornstein at Pinnacle Management Corp., am athlete representation firm . His connection to the Cornstein family dates back two decades, when Danny was a small child with big dreams.
Dalembert himself is no stranger to philanthropic work—having won a community service award from the NBA for giving back to his native Haiti after the 2010 earthquake—which makes him all the more proud of Danny.
“It filled my heart with joy to see a glimpse of him wanting to give back,” Dalembert told The Press.
“This is an example for all young kids that you have to create positivity in this world and give back to your community.”
McBride was introduced to guests at the start of basketball drills. Despite only recently finishing up his rookie season in New York, the former West Virginia Mountaineer embraces being a role model.
“I love working with kids personally,” McBride told The Press. “I’m very excited and I love giving back to the community.”
Parents enjoyed the action from the sidelines, while sharing in the excitement of their children to be around some sports heroes.
“I have a great admiration and respect for people that compete at the highest level so it’s an honor to be here and they’re thrilled to be here,” said Lorenzo Smith, whose two sons participated in the clinic.
It also provided an opportunity for children to come together to play hoops after a few challenging years caused by the pandemic.
“It’s so great to have the community back together and it’s great for Horace Mann to host Courts of Dreams,” Smith said.
Dalembert is a dad to four young children who he wishes could have been there with him to celebrate Courts of Dreams. But while they stayed back home i
n Florida, Dalembert got a glimpse of the next generation acting in service to others.
“If you want to see change, you have to be the first one to make that change by your actions,” Dalembert said.
Cornstein anticipates some time off over the months ahead to reflect on how far they have come.
“This summer is going to be just taking a breath(er) after working for nine months,” Cornstein said. “We don’t want this to end here. We want it to continue and it’s just the beginning for us.”