ONE OF THE GREAT, great things about our city is the Sonny Hill League.

This basketball showcase has been home to schoolyard legends and wannabes, NBA

stars and Hall of Famers.

If you were anybody in Philly hoops, you played in the league. If you wanted to become somebody, you played in the league. You had to bring plenty of game, then survive the intense, physical nature of what awaited you. Philly ball didn't step aside or step down because it was summer.

And if you did survive, if you made it in the Sonny Hill League, you were a legitimate player - in Philadelphia, or

anywhere else.

This amazing institution will celebrate its 40th anniversary

tonight, with four games at

Temple's McGonigle Hall, starting at 4:45.

Hill made sure education was part of the league, along with discipline and following the rules.

"It's not just about basketball. It's about these young people. We're not interested in developing the next great player, we're interested in developing the next great human being," Hill told Drive magazine, the official magazine of the 76ers, for whom he works.

Hill continues to live a remarkable life, from

his professional ventures, to his presence as an

influential community leader.

This spring, Hill was named a finalist for the Mannie Jackson Basketball Human Spirit Award, presented by the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

In announcing the award, the Hall of Fame said, in part, that the award is given to an individual who has found the game of basketball a contributing aspect to personal growth and accomplishment, a place to develop an understanding of others, and an avenue that helped shape that individual's growth into a recognized visionary leader in the greater community in which they serve.

The thousands and thousands of young men who have played, and thrived, in the Sonny Hill League know the Hall of Fame got it right when

Sonny Hill was picked as one of the finalists. *

- Chuck Bausman