The Chicago Bulls, along with jersey patch sponsor Zenni eyewear and the Chicago Park District, hosted a community event on July 14 to unveil a refurbished basketball court out South at Burnside Park. 

The family-friendly outing included appearances from Bulls legends Randy Brown and Toni Kukoc, mascot Benny the Bull, and current Bulls guard Ryan Arcidiacono. And during the event, a shooting challenge against Arcidiacono and Brown ended in a donation of more than $10,000 to state programs of Prevent Blindness. The crowd was filled with Avalon Park camp goers who’d been bussed over to Burnside Park.

But for all the excitement and good that the event inspired that day, local residents said no one told them about the festivities.

A photo of the refurbished court. Photo from Joe Pinchin (Chicago Bulls).

“They didn’t inform us,” said Norma Jones, a Burnside Park resident for more than 40 years. “They’re up there talking about what it means to Burnside but they went and brought all of these kids from other neighborhoods.” 

Jones and two of her friends were taking a walk to the park that day when they stumbled upon the Bulls’ ribbon-cutting ceremony for the basketball court. Guests were gifted a pair of Zenni glasses, water bottles and other sponsored products. Some were entered into a raffle to win one of three Bulls Jerseys signed by Randy Brown and a gift bag.

Jones’ claim that nobody from over there knew about the unveiling ceremony became more apparent as residents walked out of their homes, watching from their porches and sidewalks. By the end of the program, the crowd of campers was flanked on all sides by children and parents from the community. 

“I went and talked to [alderwoman] Harris about it and she said that they brought kids from another neighborhood because the Chicago Bulls chose them,” Jones said.

Norma Jones (far right) and her two friends enjoying the basketball court unveiling at Burnside Park. Photo by ANF Chicago // The TRiiBE

According to Bulls senior director of community relations Adrienne Scherenzel-Curry, they made an effort to involve Burnside residents by reaching out to the neighborhood’s Ald. Michelle Harris [8th Ward]. She said Harris reached out to the Burnside Neighborhood Organization.

But the dearth of Burnside residents who seemed informed about the Bulls’ refurbished court project highlights a citywide complaint about the disconnect between residents and their alderpeople.

“What you all have done here today will change my children’s lives, they know someone cares about them,” Ald. Harris said during the event. She profusely thanked the event’s sponsors. “This will transform the community,” she added.

The family-friendly outing included appearances from Bulls legends Randy Brown and Toni Kukoc, mascot Benny the Bull, and current Bulls guard Ryan Arcidiacono. Photo by ANF Chicago // The TRiiBE
Ald. Harris [second from left] and Bulls senior director of community relations Adrienne Scherenzel-Curry [middle left] attended the event. Photo by ANF Chicago // The TRiiBE

Harris’ words rang hollow for the Burnside residents in attendance who contend that they’ve been running community events without the help of Ald. Harris or any of the Chicago Park District representatives thanked during the speeches for organizing programming in Burnside.

“They don’t do anything for these kids over here. On other holidays, we do that stuff ourselves,” said Sharonda Beasley, another Burnside native who had no idea about the event. “I just happened to be riding by and saw all of this and was, like, ‘where all our people?’” 

In a story about the renaming of Lake Shore Drive, Grand Crossing residents expressed their frustrations with their alderpeople — Harris and 17th Ward alderman David Moore) — about placing their effort in missions that don’t move the needle any closer to prosperity for the community. 

“I’m not hating on them bringing the kids over here for this. I’m glad that they got to be a part of it, but put some flyers out. Let our people know what’s going on,” Beasley said. “We’ve been playing ball on that old broken gravel court for years, so something like this is sentimental to us. It’s only right that we should be involved.”

is a staff writer with The TRiiBE. Email him with news tips.