Sonny Hill: Humanitarian Hall of Famer - Making Basketball, Practice for the Real World

11/17/2011 09:02 am ET
  • Steve Young Talk show host, author, oped-columnist, television writer, and filmmaker

Philadelphia's "Mr Basketball," Sonny Hill, who never got the chance to be voted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame as a player, but on September 5th, he will hear his name announced at the Hall as co-recipient of the Mannie Jackson Basketball Human Spirit Award along with NBA Hall of Famer, David Robinson.

The award, named for Jackson, owner of the Harlem Globetrotters, is meant to honor those "who have incorporated basketball into their efforts to contribute to the greater good of society. The 71 year old, 5'9" Hill, who, like Jackson, had to deal with an NBA "quota" on black players when he played, never had the same opportunity as today's African-American players to play in the NBA, but he did have a great part in paving the way for those like Robinson and he's been doing it for longer than Robinson has been on the planet.

While Sonny's basketball exceptional on-the-court talent was on display in his college days and in the Eastern Basketball League, where most gifted black basketball players ended up, it is off the court where Sonny broke down long-locked doors.

At CBS, he was the first black commentator for NBA games. "Ahead of his time," said Marc Narducci, longtime NBA reporter at the Philadelphia Inquirer. "The first analyst who actually dissected the game for viewers."

Sonny, who has his own show every Sunday on WIP Sport Radio ans serves as executive advisor for the Philadelphia 76ers, has presided over making Philadelphia a virtual basketball mecca, starting by co-founding the Charles Baker Memorial League, summer home of many of the NBA elite - from Wilt to Bill Bradley to Ray Allen - for nearly 50 years.

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Award-winning TV writer, Steve Young, is the author of "Great Failures of the Extremely Successful ( and blogs at and blogs at His son 13 year old son Casey played this year in the Sonny Hill League.