Tribute in remembrance of Jimmy Rogers, founder of successful Brixton Basketball team ‘Brixton Topcats’

The man who created a hugely successful basketball club and launched the careers of several international stars of the game has died, aged 78.

Jimmy Rogers, founder of the Brixton Topcats, gave former Chicago Bulls forward Luol Deng his start in the sport.

Other global names who played their first competitive matches with the club include former GB players Eric Boateng, Matthew Osei Bryan-Amaning and Justin Robinson.

Jimmy died on Monday after a six-month battle with lung cancer. He passed away in the comfort of his home in Brixton, surrounded by friends and family.

He had established the club in 1984, and made it a cornerstone of the local community, improving the lives of thousands of inner-city players and parents.

His mission was to provide high-quality opportunities for young people in South London, both on and off the court, and in the wider areas of life.

The club was founded soon after race riots in England in the 1981, including in Brixton. It was visited by Prince Charles, Princess Diana, Michael Jordan, Allen Iverson, Robert Horry, Lennox Lewis, Ian Wright and MP Kate Hoey.

The club’s alumni includes top lawyers, TV presenters, NBA stars, college basketball stars, academics and musicians – all holding the lessons of hard-work, discipline, mental and physical strength passed down from Jimmy Roger’s intensive basketball programme, as the basis of their success.

Jimmy was a pillar of the community – he was dubbed ‘The Bishop of Brixton’ for his extraordinary commitment to better homes in the area.

Former player Amal Dahoum, now a club volunteer, said: “His commitment and work to the community in Brixton was selfless.

Jimmy’s work has impacted the lives of thousands of players. He had a way of making everyone feel like they had a worth, had potential and could achieve anything and more by instilling belief and the right mental attitude to achieve, not only in basketball, but beyond in the game of life.

“Jimmy was a leader, an ideal, a seminal figure who not only brought out the best in you, he also put the best in you.

He held dear the Topcats’ philosophy of never turning a player away, working with everyone who went through the doors of Brixton Recreation Centre, regardless of being on the fringes of the law, their class, ethnicity or background.

Jimmy was a mentor, a guide, a father figure who you always felt a duty to make proud. “Jimmy leaves behind an extraordinary local, national and international legacy.

“He had the purest heart of gold. Jimmy was a man that sacrificed, served, gave in immeasurable ways to his community in and outside of Brixton Topcats where he created a home away from home for thousands of players.

Jimmy’s legacy, influence and work will live on forever. He will be sorely missed and our thoughts, prayers, love and support are with his family and his friends at this difficult time.”

Vauxhall MP Kate Hoey said: “Jimmy was a one off – a thoroughly decent man who was brilliant as a coach,mentor and father figure to thousands of young people from Lambeth who loved basketball.

Watching him coach was a joy and seeing how he kept perfect discipline among the hundreds of devotees was inspirational.

He cared deeply about each one and so many owe so much to his determination that they would have the opportunity to win sports scholarships to the USA. I feel so privileged that over the last 30 years I have been able to count him as a friend.”

He is survived by three step-sons, Leo, Mark and Carlos and several grandchildren.

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