LL Cool J Returns to His Old Neighborhood for 15th Annual 'Jump & Ball' Free Youth Camp (Exclusive)
By Latifah Muhammad
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LL Cool J hasn't forgotten where he came from. The NCIS: Los Angeles star recently returned to his hometown of Queens, New York, to host the 15th annual Jump & Ball Youth Camp, where young people in the neighborhood participate in free basketball tournaments every weekend during the month of August.
“I know what it’s like to live around here and not have anything to do,” LL told ET’s Brooke Anderson over the weekend. “Just standing on the corner, feeling forgotten.”
Upon stepping onto the basketball court, LL was greeted by the more than 200 youngsters who participated in the five-week program, and other residents from the neighborhood. “Giving them something to do that’s going to be productive, that’s going to be a great experience, that’s going to impact their lives long-term. That’s what it’s about,” he explained.
Aside from basketball, guests at the event enjoyed free food and back-to-school haircuts, along with live music, courtesy of LL's Rock the Bells Sirius XM channel, which plays classic hip-hop.
LL, who launched Jump & Ball in 2005, developed the community sports program to provide kids in Southeast Queens with an opportunity to learn the game of basketball and team-building skills that can be used on and off the court.
The GRAMMY-winning rapper-turned-actor, whose birth name is James Todd Smith, sees himself in the faces of the youth in the neighborhood where he grew up. When asked about his own childhood dreams, LL replied, “To do what I’m doing [right now]. It’s a dream come true in a lot of ways.”
The avid philanthropist supports a number of charitable efforts including literacy for kids, and music and arts programs in schools. In April, LL and his wife, Simone I. Smith, dished to ET about their “Beat Cancer Like a Boss” campaign with the American Cancer Society. Smith is in remission after being diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer in 2004.
"The campaign is 'Beat Cancer Like a Boss,' and when it comes to that, she's definitely been a boss," LL gushed. "I think that so many people, if you can inspire others to learn more, dream more, do more, that's being a boss and that's why we did this campaign for the American Cancer Society and for Simone Smith, her jewelry, which a portion of all the proceeds go to the ACS."