Some of you saw the story that slamonline linked to yesterday about Robert “Mr. Lou,” Williams the Coney Island basketball coach/mentor who passed away while Stephon Marbury was in town after leaving the Knicks for 36 or so hours. Few CI products knew Mr. Lou better than Jamel Thomas, the former Providence star who had a brief NBA career and is now a star in Europe. Jamel also has a burgeoning writing career, and may be doing more with SLAM in the future. While no one wanted his debut to be an obituary of sorts, when he called me from Italy and asked if we would run a piece he’d written about Mr. Lou (whose funeral is today), I said of course. Read and learn.—Ben Osborne

By Jamel Thomas

I would like the opportunity to inform the world about a great man, who has touched my life and so many others in my community during his time here on earth. His name is Mr. Lou, and he is the one who is responsible for almost all the good and talented individuals that come from Coney Island. It’s because of real caring people like Mr. Lou that kids who grow up in harsh environments like the inner cities can have a chance to be somebody special in their lives. From the very first day I met him as a teenager, and all throughout my years of growing up into a man, Mr. Lou always found the time to make sure that I was doing good. I love this man like he was my father and I often thank God for blessing me with his presence in my life experiences. So there’s absolutely no way I could allow Mr. Lou to move on into his after-life, without letting people know who I strive to be like every morning I open my eyes and start my day.

The Gardener…

Since there were so many great basketball players that came out of Coney Island, I thought it was only right to represent my court— nicknamed ”The Garden” after the world’s famous arena Madison Square Garden—in the right way. First of all, there’s no way this basketball court would’ve became one of the most popular places in NYC if it wasn’t for a great man my family & friends call Mr. Lou. He was one of the wisest men out there teaching basketball and life skills to the kids throughout Coney Island for decades! In my opinion, although he didn’t plant the seeds there in The Garden…he definitely was the one who watched over us and made sure we grew into the most beautiful flowers we could be in life.

Mr. Lou has influenced a lot of talented guys and great basketball players like myself, D Flight, my cousins Corey/Louis & Willie Johnson, Spice, Silk plus a lot of my friends like Daryl Flicking, Maurice Brown, Big James, Shawn Pratt, Reuben, Merk, Clay, 2-Sweet, Wayne, Arva, Perry, Paul, Billy, 2-Cent, Ed, Hardin a.k.a Bob, Wiz, Tim a.k.a KJ, Squeak, Moses, P-Free, Don Juan, Maine, House, Snoop, Mikey, Juice (r.i.p), John Quintana Sr. & Jr., Fufuss, Buck, Disco, Smooth, Dream(r.i.p), Strawberry, Vanilla & Chocolate(r.i.p), Bassy, Fludd, Slice and Tiny, Lil Vee, Sharaya, Norm Rich, Idris, Lunch Box, Breeze, Doyin, Tac, Mellow, Justice a.k.a Coney Island’s new ref, Ethan, Killy, Bumper, Slop, Speedy, Shake(from 2940), Lil Guy(r.i.p), Donald(Ed), Nick, June-bug, Dale, Jock, Scar, Smitty, Jim-Ski, Flash, Supa-Sed, Stephon, Juju & Don Marbury, Ezzo, Haron, Cee Cee, CB, Brodie, Dray(r.i.p), Tyrik, Pop and even more good dudes who came through to play some ball right there on our basketball court in Mermaid Housing Projects.

I want people to know that Mr. Lou gave us all the protection, guidance and motivation we needed to expand our minds, so we could grow up into decent young men and women. This is a man who didn’t have to give any of us his time or positive energy and yet he continued to bless us with his wisdom as often as possible. So this is why I think it is only right that The Garden be officially dedicated to Mr. Lou…Coney Island’s very own faithful Gardener.

Now imagine what I’m actually saying to you about this great man, because I want you to be very clear on why I have so much love and respect for him. He didn’t get paid by anybody to work with us at The Garden, but he was there everyday after his real job as if he was going to be compensated for his valuable time. He even extended himself to the guys who were out there hustling and dealing drugs since some of them had skills on the court too. I bet he did that to try and talk them into changing their ways, so they wouldn’t ruin their lives or even lose them more importantly. I guess those types of guys were like weeds trying to grow in The Garden and like the hard-working Gardener he was…he was busy trying to pull them up.

Now are you getting a better understanding of what I am saying about Mr. Lou? He wasn’t playing no games out there being a father-figure to a lot of the kids growing up in Coney Island. He could already see their was a lack of good parenting and attention that kids like myself really needed while we was trying to live in a tough environment like my hood. I wonder sometimes how he may have felt to see a young girl or boy get beat-up, shot or killed around The Garden when he was trying so hard everyday to help them grow. Still I guess he was able to deal with that, because it didn’t discourage or make him give up on his preciousl little flowers. Can you imagine what kind of heart Mr. Lou has that allowed him to try and raise generations of children in Coney Island through basketball? Well that’s why I consider him to be one of the Good Guys, because they say those are the ones who always finish last…well not this time…he’s coming in first place every time in my book!

We definitely owe this man a lot of recognition, respect, honor and love in return for his positive energy that almost never seemed to burn out. I know a lot of parents who left their kids outside to play and didn’t even know their children were being watched by one of God’s angels, until it was time to go upstairs and get ready for bed. The last time I checked that was called baby-sitting and nobody ever asked him to do that. So you have to give it up to Mr. Lou for using the quality time he could’ve been spending with his own wife and kids, on us just because he figured we needed it. If I had to think about what his name means it would go something like this…Mr. LOU: Loving OTHERS Unconditionally. There’s no doubt in my mind that I want to be just like him as I become more of a mature man in my life. I can see a lot of my ways comes from this man, because deep down inside I really just love helping OTHER people and no I don’t look for anything in return…well just some recognition to be honest. It’s just a great feeling when you know the help you offer to people is appreciated, so to Mr. Lou…all this love is just for you!

· Thank you for all the time you gave
· Thank you for teaching us how to behave…
· Thank you for watching over us
· Thank you for offering your support and trust…
· Thank you for being the man you are
· Thank you for encouraging us to go real far…
· Thank you for giving your precious time
· Thank you for preventing violence and crime…
· Thank you for all those important lessons
· Thank you for dealing with the Smith & Wessons…
· Thank you for opening up your heart
· Thank you for being there right from the start…
· Thank you for great advice on the court
· Thank you for showing us you can’t be bought…
· Thank you for spreading so much love
· Thank you for being like the one above…
· Thank you for all your countless hours
· Thank you for watering all your beautiful flowers…

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you so much for Loving Others Unconditionally!