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The History of the New York Renaissance

Our roots | history & heritage

The Renaissance program before you today was inspired by the historical team of the same name during the Harlem Renaissance. It was during then that  African-American culture was reborn and flourished from the 1920s to the early 1930s primarily in New York City.  There was a heightened focus centered on African-Americans and their endeavors such as poetry, arts, music, sports, and more.  The movement echoed Afro-centric motifs and expressions across the urban areas in the northeast and midwest, even extending to as far as Paris, France.  

The original New York Renaissance, or RENS, was the first fully all-black professional African-American owned basketball team, formed in Harlem in 1923.  Its founder was a man named Robert “Bob” L. Douglas, and he started the team on February 13th of 1923.  The team didn’t play its first game until November 3rd of that same year.

The NY RENS' immediate success and notoriety helped shift the presence of African-American sports from the amateur level to the professional level.  They were able to compete with and even defeat the Original Boston Celtics, who were one of the dominant professional white teams during that era.

The RENS won 88 consecutive games in the 1932-1933 season, which has never been matched or surpassed by a professional basketball team since then.  In 1939, they won the first professional basketball championship in the World Professional Basketball Tournament. This would be a tremendous accomplishment because as the years went on, the majority of teams to win this tournament usually came out of the National Basketball League – which eventually became the NBA many many years later.

The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame inducted The NY RENS in 1963.

The original RENS broke barriers by penetrating the professional realm, which opened doors and positive opportunities for its players and their families.  Its foundational goal was to help young male athletes achieve better opportunities in the NYC metropolitan area. 

The NY Renaissance Basketball Association in the 21st century

Just as the past success of the RENS led to better professional opportunities, we look to provide the same for our participants today. However, this time around it isn't just about the round orange ball; it's about developing professionals in every sense of the word and in multiple areas and walks of life. It seems like destiny, as nearly 90 years from its origin, The New York Renaissance was reborn again in 2012.

The present NY Renaissance focuses on continuing to turn amateurs into professionals - the right way.  Handling adolescents can be fragile, as the wrong nurturing method could damage a kid's entire future and fill it with regret.  With that taken into account, we approach our interactions with our participants in a genuine, caring way, as if that person were literally family.  Even more so, we aren't just making sure that young athletes only succeed on the court.  At the Renaissance organization we are insistently encouraging and aiding academic excellence, while instilling valuable life lessons, morals, community values, and true character into our youth.  "The ball stops bouncing for everyone at some point," remarked Stanford University bound Bryce Wills (Renaissance & Iona Prep Alum).

Under the microscope of the NY Renaissance organization and what its legacy stands for, progression of our participants is at the forefront, and developing successful young men such as Bryce is a primary focus.

The 21st century revival currently highlights the New York Renaissance Basketball Association as a registered non-profit sports-based youth development organization, created by Peabody Award winning filmmaker and playwright Dan Klores. Its foundation was sparked by an epiphany and desire to set a new standard in a holistic approach to mentoring and educating hundreds of children from diverse backgrounds, ages 8-17.

"There is a constant and perpetual attempt to get it right, to find the best teachers and coaches who listen and embrace, instead of talk and stand on pedestals," says Mr. Klores.  The NY Renaissance rejects the ideas of its coaches, directors, staff, or other status quo representatives who tell middle school and high school children and their parents that playing "is a business".  Instead, what has made the Renaissance stand apart is their ability to greatly nurture, expose, embrace, and properly teach youngsters through core values and principles that are integrated in a system set up for the kids to succeed. 

From its inception, the Renaissance program has created simultaneous progressive components which have undeniably proven to be unique, resulting in fair characterization of the program being a primary leader in youth basketball and education.  In addition, it's an umbrella that helps young athletes become well-rounded, successful student-athletes, that exceed expectations in three focus areas: academic achievement, community building, and commitment to core values.

In just its second season (2013), The New York RENS were awarded sponsorship by Adidas.  In the summer of 2015, they won an Adidas Gauntlet Championship with the likes of Rawle Alkins, Mustapha Heron, Tyrique Jones, Devonte Green, Elijah Wilson, Jared Rivers, Ty Flowers, Ryan Preston, Opong Bramble, Ty Cohen, and Kai Mitchell.

The following summer, sponsorship was changed and upgraded to Nike, which is considered the creme d le creme of competitive grassroots basketball.  The Renaissance joined the EYBL in Spring of 2016, and boasted a formidable junior class that made it to Peach Jam.  The rest has been a gust of recent history, as the NY Renaissance is now one of the nation's premier AAU programs. 

Going forward, we look to be a model of consistency in many areas, including education and athletic development.  We are creating a pipeline for young athletes to have the opportunity to go to college for free, because of their hard work in the classrooms and level of play they primarily display during Nike EYBL sessions.  In addition, we are doing justice to the term "student-athlete" by allowing our members and players to have access to auxiliary academic resources whenever and wherever they need it.  The future of our program lives in how we presently guide and prepare our young student-athletes for a better tomorrow.