2011-09-02 / Community

Warren To Be Inducted Into Basketball Hall Of Fame

By Daniel Solomon

Many of the kids shooting hoops in parks throughout the peninsula spend hours on the courts perfecting their skills and dreaming about playing in the NBA one day. Some might think that an impossible journey, but that’s exactly where John Warren, who is now being inducted into the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame, got his start.

John, a player for the New York Knicks and Cleveland Cavaliers in the late ’60s and early ’70s, moved from Georgia to Rockaway in 1957 and began his basketball career with pickup games in the playground of J.H.S. 180. Coming from a family that he described in an interview with The Wave as “extremely athletic and competitive,” he had already honed a great talent for the sport and, by the time he was attending Far Rockaway High School, had made the varsity team.

Then, in 1965, it was off to St. John’s University, where John had to balance basketball and college. He was on the Division I team there and pursued a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. It was also at this time that he met his future wife, Rhia, whom he married in 1971.

John caught his big break in 1969, when the New York Knicks chose him as a first-round draft pick. That season, they won big, capturing the NBA Championship, and he and his teammates were feted at Gracie Mansion in a reception hosted by then-Mayor John Lindsay. Stardom snuck up on John, who said he “didn’t think about it until it happened.”

When the NBA added new franchises in 1970, he was drafted by one of them, the Cleveland Cavaliers, and played for the team as a shooting guard for four seasons. In 1974, he ended his basketball career and moved back to New York with Rhia.

The couple soon had the first of their two children and John went back to school, earning a master’s degree in accounting from Rutgers University and, afterwards, working at the accounting firm Ernst & Young until his retirement in 1999. Rhia, meanwhile, rose through the ranks of the city schools, starting out as a teacher at P.S. 183 and eventually becoming the principal of P.S. 226 and the superintendent of District 28.

She left her job in 2005 and the two have since been enjoying their golden years together. He still speaks at career days and parents’ workshops, though, until recently, he thought many had forgotten his tenure with the Knicks and Cavaliers.

But then he got a phone call that informed him he had been elected for induction into the Hall of Fame, and it was apparent that his legacy had lived on. “I was extremely honored and proud of that,” John said, adding that he can’t wait for the induction ceremony, which will take place on September 22.

Beyond his accomplishments serving as an inspiration to those youths who aspire to the NBA, he and Rhia say they want to send a broader message to Rockaway’s young people. “Not everyone can make it to the Knicks or Cavaliers, and, even when you get there, it’s hard to stay there,” Rhia pointed out. “That’s why you have to work hard, play hard, and study hard,” John said, finishing her sentence. “My message is, if you’re a competitor, compete, and that’s in the classroom, too.”

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