Greenberg keeps ProCity a league for everybody

“The statue” stands silently still in the crowd while attending nearly every game of the San Francisco ProCity basketball league.

“The fisherman” brings his pole, “the chairman” plants his lawn chair right next to the court and families, children, while friends fill in the gaps in the bleachers at Kezar Pavilion.

It is the harmonious scene of a city institution created by Jon Greenberg, the founder and director of both the men’s league (started in 1979) and women’s league (1995). He has never charged for admission, meaning all comers can walk in and be entertained by a unique up-and-down basketball event that features some of the best high school, college, semi-pro, overseas and (occasionally) NBA talent around.

“Even if we were to charge a dollar, that might stop a 12-year-old kind from coming in,” Greenberg said. “And I don’t want to exclude anybody.”

This year’s women’s season starts with a tripleheader Saturday beginning at noon, while the men start Monday at 8 p.m. Full-season schedules and rosters are available at www.sanfranciscoproam.com.

Greenberg has been the directory of the Potrero Hill Rec Center for the past 41 years and started the ProCity as a way to bring unity at a time of civil strife. It has created lasting relationships with many who have been involved with the league since its inception.

“Jon has meant so much I can’t even find the words to describe it,” said Dream Team coach Dean Maye, who played in the inaugural season and has been involved in some capacity ever since. “The league is just a part of me now. I look forward to it every summer.”

Greenberg also looks at the ProCity an “opportunity league” and that goes for the players as well as the fans. Greenberg estimates an average of five men and three women each summer are signed to pro contracts.

The league reached its peak during the mid-1990s, when East Bay natives Jason Kidd, Gary Payton and Brian Shaw regularly played among local legends in games that quickly became competitive.

“Once you lace ’em up and step onto the court at Kezar, you have to perform,” longtime SF City coach Carl Jacobs said. “And for these pro guys that come back, you have guys here challenging you for your notoriety and you have to hold up yours.”

Though talented college and overseas players form the foundation of the league, occasional cameos by NBA stars often garner the headlines. This season, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Drew Gooden (Bay Pride) and the Boston Celtics’ Leon Powe (Bay Raiders) — both Bay Area stars before going pro — are listed on rosters, while some of the Warriors could stop by as well.

On the women’s side, former WNBA player Lamisha Augustine (South Bay) leads a list of stars that includes college standouts such as Cal’s Devanei Hampton (Bay City), the Pac-10 Conference Player of the Year.

But no matter who’s on the court, Greenberg will find his place in the stands alongside the rest of the die-hards for every game.

“The main objective for all of this was to provide a venue that people of all races, creeds, colors and sizes could come together and have some fun,” Greenberg said. “And I still do it for the fun of it.”

melliser@examiner.com


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