Attendees of the Chicago Chi-League Classic, which was hosted by Nike at Whitney Young last month. | Lee Edwards/Contributor

The 2016 Chi-League Classic served as the most recent reminder that basketball can unify an entire city based on the love of the game.

Sponsored by Nike, the Chi-League Classic, which was held between July 30 and July 31, is the culminating event of the nine-week summer Pro Am Basketball Association. 

In a statement, Nike expressed its serious commitment toward inspiring and enabling Chicago’s basketball players to maximize their potential on and off the court.

“We will always be there connecting fans to memorable experiences like Chi-League Classic, as well as elite players who shaped the game like Michael Jordan, and those who are thrilling us today like LeBron James, Jabari Parker, Kyrie Irving, Elena Delle Donne, Paul George, Skylar Diggins and more.”

Chicago Police Department officers from multiple districts across the city’s South and West Sides bussed in dozens of young men and women to participate in the weekend basketball festival held at Whitney M. Young Magnet High School. Event organizers provided clinics, open courts, a Rising Stars Game for younger players, and high school showcase games for both girls and boys.

CPD officer Zack Ramirez experienced Chi-League for the first time this summer as he and his partner, Officer Will Martinez, chaperoned a group of youths from within the Austin community on the second day of the festivities.

Ramirez said he’s previously organized basketball games with youths and was pleased to see that Chi-League brought basketball enthusiasts of all demographics and corners of the city to one place.

 “This is my first time experiencing (Chi-League), but overall I think it’s a good experience for the kids to see professionals play at a high level to give them something to strive for and also the clinics they held because they’re the most important thing ,” said Ramirez, a three-year member of the CPD.

Ramirez said youths engaging with officers at Chi-League can help change perceptions for both groups.

“We enjoy playing basketball and to see us out there with them shows that we are human, we are one of you guys, and just because we wear the blue uniform it doesn’t mean that we’re not people,” said Ramirez.

Whitney Young Boys Basketball head coach Tyrone Slaughter said that, while its common place for South and West Side residents to seldom venture out of their communities, events like Chi-League does a great job bringing people together.

“I think we’re all the same, we just happened to be bordered by different lines,” said Slaughter, who has won several IHSA state championships. “It’s good for people to come to the west side and experience our great hospitality.”

Urban Prep Bronzeville incoming senior Tyler Jarmon called off work to take part in Chi-League. He described seeing the assembly of youth basketball enthusiasts as “exciting”. He said there should be more events on the scale of Chi-League with other focuses besides basketball. He plans on attending the University of Michigan and hopes to be a restaurateur if his dream of playing in the NBA does not pan out.

“You have people of all different ages coming out to play; it’s just amazing to see all of these people come out to one event in Chicago,” said Jarmon. “This brings the community together and it’s not just a funeral or something happening for everyone to come together.”