The "godfather" of Ithaca basketball was honored this week.

Ithaca, N.Y. — The basketball court located on the 300 block of West Court Street was rededicated to community advocate Melvin Bell on Tuesday.

(Kyle Friend)

Melvin Leroy Bell was honored at the event by family, friends and community members.

Bell, who lived in Ithaca his entire life, graduated from Ithaca High School in 1950, said his cousin Duane Milton.

“He was a great man and a great family member,” Milton said of the Army veteran and All-American athlete, who died in 1990.

He also noted that Bell was “shooting three-pointers before anyone knew what it was.”

(The three-point line was first adopted by the now-defunct American Basketball Association in 1961, according to the

Duane’s nephew Ricky Milton also spoke at the event, calling Bell “the godfather of Ithaca basketball.”

“He was by far the most outstanding player to ever touch a ball at Ithaca High School,” said Milton. “He was way ahead of his time.”

Bell in his 1950 Ithaca High School yearbook. (Courtesy Duane Milton)

Bell’s daughter, NancyJo Bell, spoke to dozens of community members in attendance.

“I know for sure that he’s looking down today, very proud,” she said, teary-eyed.

The court, which was finished about two months ago, hosts two basketball leagues — the Rashad Richardson Summer Basketball League and the Greater Ithaca Activities Center Adult Basketball League.

One of the hoops located on the 300 block of West Court Street. The Greater Ithaca Activities Center is in the background. (Kyle Friend)

The court lies on Ithaca City School District property, although the GIAC has a lease agreement to use the space, said Mike Thomas of the GIAC.

According to Thomas, NYSEG built the court after a remediation project caused the former court, which was built in 1993, to be deconstructed.

“NYSEG is the reason we have this court,” said Marcia Fort, executive director of the GIAC.

“The court is used by lots of different people,” said Fort. “It does my heart good to see people enjoying it.”

Fort speaking at the event. (Kyle Friend)

Kyle Friend

A senior at Cornell University, Kyle covers the affordable housing crisis for the Ithaca Voice. Reach him through e-mail: