On Tuesday, May 3, Paul L. Dunbar Learning Center welcomed its newest “dream court,” thanks to Nancy Lieberman Charities, which partnered with Dallas ISD, Tiger 21 and the Dallas Police Department. This effort was made possible by a $160,000 donation to cover the state-of-the-art outdoor basketball court, a supply of brand new basketballs and hand-painted floor murals with games like leapfrog and hopscotch. More than 15 district campuses have been chosen as recipients of the foundation’s Dream Court™ program, including Stevens Park Elementary School and Jesús Moroles Expressive Arts Vanguard in 2021.
Paul L. Dunbar Learning Center Principal Alpher Garrett-Jones opened Tuesday’s ribbon cutting ceremony, followed by speakers: Major Leroy Quigg, Dallas Police Department; Ryan Pearson, Tiger21-Dallas Chapter member; and Nancy Lieberman, Hall-of-Famer and two-time Olympian. Lieberman was the second woman to be hired by the NBA as an assistant coach – for the Sacramento Kings – and first female head coach of Power, a men’s professional basketball team in the BIG3 league.
Although Lieberman climbed her way to the top as an athlete and has been making strides since then to give back to communities all over the U.S., she talked about how her childhood didn’t start off nearly as glamorous. “The really cool thing is that there were so many ‘Nancy can’t’ moments: Nancy, you can’t play on the Olympic team, Nancy, you can’t do this, you can’t do that. You certainly can’t go to college, you’re not smart enough.’ You know what, not only did I go to college, but we won back-to-back national championships, and I was two-time “Player of the Year” in college basketball,” she said.
Rather than allowing her disadvantages to define her, she used sports as a positive outlet and learned to find discipline within herself. Growing up, she looked to Muhammad Ali, considered one of the greatest boxers of all time, as an inspiration and talked to students about how he was changing her life without even knowing it. Similarly, Lieberman hopes to be a beacon of light for kids who find it difficult to believe in themselves or who need an extra push toward their goals. “You look at me today and I’m all shined up and people go, ‘that couldn’t happen to her.’ Well, it did, but I am not a victim. I am a victor, because I overcame my situation. There were good people in my life, and I needed sports more than sports needed me.”