Comedian Billy Crystal was back in his native Long Beach Sunday to open two new public basketball courts as part of an effort to help his hometown rebound from superstorm Sandy.
Crystal was joined by basketball legend Nancy Lieberman, who grew up in Far Rockaway, as well as Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and dozens of community residents and other officials. Later, more than 100 youngsters tried out the new courts by dribbling, shooting baskets, and running back and forth on the orange and blue rubberized tiles.
The courts cost $83,519 and were paid for by money donated and raised by Lieberman, an Olympic silver medalist and retired women's professional basketball star, along with Crystal and his wife, Janice.
Crystal told the crowd that he'd spent much of his childhood playing baseball and basketball nearby, dreaming of hitting last-second shots for the Knicks. "They could use us, actually," the comedian said of the Knicks, who have struggled early this season.
Cuomo said the courts were another sign of the city's recovery. "You're going to get knocked on your rear end in life. . . . Long Beach said 'we're going to get up.' "
Crystal, 65, and brothers Richard and Joel, a former Long Beach city councilman, grew up at 573 E. Park Ave.
The house suffered minor flooding during superstorm Sandy, he said.
The comedian has donated $1 million to recovery efforts in Long Beach and was part of a print, television and radio advertising campaign that aimed to restore the image of his Sandy-battered city.
"All I'm doing is helping out my hometown," Crystal said. "This is the place that formed me. I still love it here. My heart is here."
He was still signing autographs when the children took the court for their first shootaround. The courts were a hit.
"Comfortable," said Jordan Teemer, 15, a sophomore shooting guard on the Long Beach High School junior varsity team. "I like the feel."