Taj Gibson Q&A: Knicks center on the importance of giving back to his Brooklyn community, activism

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Taj Gibson dunking over Steven Adams
Taj Gibson dunking over Steven Adams

The Knicks officially welcomed back center Taj Gibson on Thursday, signing the center to provide some depth in the frontcourt.

Back in late November, SNY NBA Insider Ian Begley caught up with Gibson to talk about the Brooklyn native's charitable efforts and why it's so important for him to give back to his community.

Through his Taj Gibson Foundation, the veteran center has consistently aided those in Brooklyn – his home borough. Specifically, Gibson has worked to enrich those in his home neighborhood of Fort Greene.

Even when he was playing in Chicago or Minnesota, Gibson would return home to Brooklyn to host community events through his foundation. 

This year was no different. During the pandemic, Gibson and his foundation provided meals to NYCHA workers at a lunch at the Ingersoll Houses, where he was raised. 

Gibson also spearheaded an anti gun violence rally in Brooklyn – the Cease Fire Peace Walk – over the summer that was attended by Mayor Bill de Blasio. 

More recently, Gibson and his foundation partnered with Scotch Painter's Tape, Project Backboard and artist Steph Costello to transform a basketball court in the Ingersoll Houses. The court was refurbished and painted.

Below, Gibson talks about the court refurbishing and the work he’s done in his hometown through the Taj Gibson Foundation.

SNY: You can spend your time/money in any way you choose. Why is it important to you to do what you did with the courts at Ingersoll Houses, where you grew up?

TAJ GIBSON: I believe you have to take care of home first, Ingersoll "Fort Greene" House is where I was raised. Inspiring motivation and giving the community something to look forward to was my goal when I came up with the idea to renovate the basketball courts at Ingersoll Houses with partners Project Backboard and Scotch Painter’s Tape. Together with artist Steph Costello, we transformed the court. My blessings come from being consistently active in my community, alongside with the Taj Gibson Foundation.

SNY: You have been involved in several charity efforts associated with the Ingersoll Houses. Not everyone who is successful spends their time/resources giving back to the places they were raised. What led you to take this path as a professional athlete?

TAJ GIBSON: Along with my desire to see my community do better, my parents are the reason for the path I have chosen as a professional athlete. They raised me to be honorable and taught me the importance of giving back. Those are morals I learned at a young age and have kept with me throughout life.

SNY: How do you hope the effort to refurbish the court impacts children who play there/live in the houses?

TAJ GIBSON: I feel renovating the courts will impact the children of the community positively. The children will no longer have to travel outside of their neighborhood to go shoot hoops. Now, they have two completely brand new active basketball courts. The children have something to be proud of and they have the comfortability needed to be great.

SNY: What impact did growing up in the Ingersoll Houses have on you as a child?

TAJ GIBSON: Growing up in Ingersoll Houses taught me how to survive. I learned to remain humble and respectful, never be critical because you never know how life will end up.

SNY: Did it play a role in your development as a player?

TAJ GIBSON: Growing up in Ingersoll Houses has definitely played a role in my development of becoming a player. Anyone who knows me knows I am hard-nosed and I play every game like it is my last.

SNY: You and your foundation have been involved in several initiatives during the pandemic and following the killing of George Floyd. Why is it important to you to have your foundation involved in these efforts?

TAJ GIBSON: It is important for my foundation and I to be involved in such initiatives and to make efforts because we stand for change, peace, and equality.

SNY: Your anti-gun violence rally in Brooklyn was attended by the mayor. What did you hope to accomplish with that rally and do you think the goal was accomplished?

TAJ GIBSON: I believe nothing can be established and/or accomplished overnight, but it is a start. The Cease Fire Peace Walk assembled by the Taj Gibson Foundation, with the support of the mayor's office and the New York City Police Department, was a beautiful moment. Our goal was to shed light on all of the atrocities that were taking place and come up with a solution to stop the violence. Our goal was to walk for peace and bridge the gap between our communities and NYPD.

SNY: What role have you played – and do you hope to continue to play in the movement against systemic racism in the country?

TAJ GIBSON: The role I have played in the movement against systemic racism is being heavily active in my community. I will continue to remain active and stand for change, alongside with the Taj Gibson Foundation, who will orchestrate future peace walks. I strongly believe, being a voice for the people of my community, who feel they are overlooked because of their financial status, race, or religion, will bring changes that are necessary for our neighborhood.