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Notorious B.I.G., Brooklyn Street Bard, Gets Official City Tribute at Last

“This is about preserving the legacy of Biggie and hip-hop in a community that’s quickly gentrifying,” said Councilman Robert E. Cornegy Jr., a Democrat who helped secure financing for the project and led the drive to name the courts for Mr. Wallace. “Now, no matter how much this community changes, there will always be a record of the culture that lived here.”


Christopher Wallace, who was known as the Notorious B.I.G., in an undated photo taken near his mother’s home in Brooklyn.

Clarence Davis/New York Daily News Archive, via Getty Images

On Wednesday, more than 100 local residents gathered at the playground for a jubilant, sweat-soaked ribbon-cutting. The crowd included Mr. Wallace’s daughter, T’yanna; the D.J. Mister Cee, one of the earliest champions of the rapper’s work; and the music video director and producer Ralph McDaniels, who is known as Uncle Ralph. Dozens of children formed lines for layups and games of knockout on the freshly paved courts.

“In a way, this was Biggie’s first stage,” Mr. McDaniels said. “We were all just lucky to be his audience.”

Mr. Wallace was not a particularly skilled athlete, but he visited the courts regularly to watch games and entertain fans on the sidelines with his own rap interludes. Over the years, basketball became a frequent point of references in his rhymes, as he compared himself to Patrick Ewing, Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal, among others. In “I Got a Story to Tell,” he even recounted the tale of his affair with the girlfriend of a Knicks player.


Images of Mr. Wallace attesting to his popularity were in evidence at the ceremony on Wednesday.

Harrison Hill/The New York Times

Around the city and beyond, Mr. Wallace’s scowling, chubby-cheeked visage graces more than a few graffiti murals. “Spread love, it’s the Brooklyn way,” an oft-quoted line from his song “Juicy,” has become an unofficial motto for the borough.

Representative Hakeem Jeffries, a Democrat whose district covers parts of Brooklyn and Queens, commemorated Mr. Wallace this year by reciting a few of his lyrics on the House floor. “His rags-to-riches life story is the classic embodiment of the American dream,” Mr. Jeffries said.

For Mr. Cornegy, the dedication of the court felt like a fitting coda to his own relationship with Mr. Wallace. The councilman grew up in the same building as the rapper, at 226 St. James Place, and came to admire the lyrical prowess he displayed on the court that now bears his name.

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