Delivering joy on basketball courts in Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA — In basketball, it would be hard to find anyone better at passing the ball than Michael Gibson.

But Gibson isn’t typically in the business of bringing people joy. “I serve legal complaints and subpoenas all over the city of Philadelphia, so nobody’s a hundred percent happy with me,” Gibson said.

But where he’s happy is at the court — the basketball court. His passion is the game he played as a boy on the streets of Philly, one he says is more than a pastime here. It’s a religion. “There’s people out playing basketball every single day,” Gibson said.

That includes some kids Gibson saw last winter, when he happened to have a new ball in the car. “I noticed two kids playing with an old beat-up ball outside their house on a homemade court, and I thought, ‘Let me give one of these kids the ball,'” Gibson said.

He took a picture to remember the moment. “Their smiles were jumping out of the camera at me, and I thought you know, ‘maybe I can do this to a couple more children,'” he said.


Michael Gibson meets with kids in Philadelphia

CBS News

So, naturally, Gibson posted to Facebook, and began to collect donations for basketballs. He called it The 6th Man Project. For the five players on the court, he’s coming off the bench as the sixth.

“Do you always have a trunk full of balls?” CBS News asked. “Yes,” Gibson replied.

During work breaks, he delivers these unexpected presents to kids. “How’s everybody doing, alright? You guys like the game of basketball?” Gibson asked a group of kids. “Yeah!” they responded.

“What did you guys think when that stranger came over and gave you these basketballs?” CBS News asked.

“I was shocked,” one girl said. “Did it make you feel special?” CBS News asked. “Yeah, a lot,” she responded.


Michael Gibson

CBS News

Gibson said the smiles are what keeps him going. He even supplied balls to this after school program — to the delight of some eighth graders. “That made me feel like there was faith in the world, that were wasn’t all just bad people,” one student said.

“I’m hoping that will spread to other areas in their life. Maybe they’re gonna realize that there’s a lot of other people out there that are willing to do that for them,” Gibson said.

He’s given out more than 800 balls in just over a year. One man giving kids a shot on the courts where he got his.

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