A Brooklyn basketball court is being renamed after murdered rap legend Biggie Smalls. As NY1's Talia Kaplan reports, the name change fulfills a promise a city councilman made to Biggie's grieving mother.
A basketball court in a Bedford-Stuyvesant park will be renamed after Biggie Smalls, the late hip-hop legend from Brooklyn, according to City Councilman Robert Cornegy, who has been trying to honor Biggie, also known as the Notorious B.I.G., for years.
Long before he rose to fame with hits including "Hypnotize" "Big Poppa," and "Juicy," Biggie was just Christopher Wallace, a kid from nearby Clinton Hill.
He lived on St. James Place in the same apartment building as Cornegy, and shot hoops on a court in the Crispus Attucks Playground.
"It was the right timing and the right opportunity to, as a community, have a chance to honor him," Cornegy said in a phone interview.
This past March marked 20 years since the rapper was murdered in a drive-by shooting that is unsolved. He was just 24.
Cornegy said the renaming fulfills a promise he made to Biggie's mother, Voletta Wallace.
Most people NY1 spoke to at the playground said they were excited about the name change.
"You think of Brooklyn, you think of Biggie Smalls. He's great," one woman said at the playground. "I'm really happy this is happening for him."
But some people in the neighborhood oppose honoring the rapper. Biggie was arrested several times on drug and assault charges, and his lyrics were often raw and explicit.
Local resident: I don't think Biggie Smalls is the perfect role model for kids
Local resident: His lyrics, violent lyrics
A few years ago, a proposal to rename a corner of Fulton Street and St. James Place "Christopher Wallace Way" fell through because of community opposition.
But the community board and city parks department approved the latest proposal.
And so Biggie will live on in his old neighborhood through his old basketball court, as well as his music.
"Coming from Brooklyn, that's a great thing that he made it, and the other kids can look up and say, 'I want to be like him: a rapper,'" one local resident said.
The renaming ceremony is scheduled for August 2, three days ahead of the annual basketball tournament held in the area in Biggie's honor.