Town brings community together with first ever basketball Tip-Off Night

Celtics mascot Lucky the Leprechaun flies through the air and dunks the ball during the Basketball Tip-Off Night at the high school Photo by Friends of Marblehead Basketball

Marblehead High School was alive and well last Friday as the first ever Basketball Tip-Off Night was held inside the school’s gymnasium, hosted by Friends of Marblehead Basketball.

More than 200 kids and their family members, along with students, coaches, and players from the high school gathered to celebrate the start of the basketball season for the boys and girls basketball programs. 

The festivities started at 7 p.m with Mike Lavender, a teacher at Marblehead High School, welcoming everyone to the event. He then introduced girls basketball coach Paul Moran, and boys coach Mike Giardi, who both spoke to begin the night. 

Giardi thanked everyone for coming out to support the basketball programs and said that he hopes that the tip-off night can become an annual event.

As for Coach Moran, he kept his message short and sweet, but made sure to get the energy up in the building.

“I’m ready to go, let’s go!” he said.

Another man in the building that was also ready to go was Kristofer “Kit” Ackermann, who performs as the Boston Celtics mascot Lucky the Leprechaun. Ackermann, known for his high-flying trampoline slam dunks at the TD Garden, brought his stunts to the school’s gymnasium. 

He asked for assistance from a number of the high school’s varsity players to lob him balls to dunk. He even enlisted Coach Giardi to hold the ball up so that he could take it as he flipped through the air and slammed it into the hoop, leaving all of the kids with eyes wide and mouths open. 

Like he always does, Lucky got the crowd roaring and gave kids an experience to remember as after the performance, he took photos with the young basketball players in front of the Celtics’ 1981 NBA Championship trophy, which was Hall of Famer Larry Bird’s first with Boston. 

The kids as well as the players were also given an opportunity to learn about proper conditioning when it comes to being an athlete as former Head Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, Dr. Tim DiFrancesco spoke to the crowd.

DiFrancesco is a resident of Marblehead and is the President and Founder of Athletes Edge in Salem. As a former worker for the Lakers, he was greeted with a playful set of boos from the crowd as he was introduced. 

During his speech, DiFrancesco talked about a number of ways that basketball players can improve their game off the court in terms of nutrition, hydration, sleep and dynamic stretching. He also emphasized the importance of having fun in the sport, stating that players will perform at their best when they are experiencing the joy of playing, and pointed to the turnout of the event as an example. 

“They have found that you win more if you have joy in this game. That’s the piece that…how much joy can all of you have?” he said. “Look at this turnout, this is such a great turnout. It’s such an incredible coming together of people that love this game and why we want to be on this court, cheering the people that are on this court is for that joy.” 

After DiFrancesco spoke, the varsity boys and girls basketball teams were introduced and they took photos at center court.

Afterward, a number of items were raffled off including NBA jerseys and tickets to Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics and Bruins games. The night was capped off with a foul-shooting contest that was won by eighth grader at Veterans Middle School Blake Hammond.

More than 180 kids signed up for the event and there were a number of others who registered at the door. Bob Lemmond, who is associated with Friends of Marblehead Basketball, said that the gym had more than 300 people in attendance. He also noted that over the last few months, Friends of Marblehead Basketball has raised over $50,000 for Marblehead’s basketball programs, most of which came from Friday’s event.

Lemmond also stated that while raising money for the town’s basketball programs is important, the goal of the evening was to bring the community together.

“The real objective of that was for kids to have fun, and really to celebrate the start of the season. It was really about kids having fun, and we are very glad that we accomplished that.”

With the amount of success that the first event had, organizers are optimistic and excited about making Tip-Off Night a yearly event.

  • Ryan Vermette is the Item's Marblehead reporter. He graduated from Springfield College in 2021 with a Bachelor's degree in Communications/Sports Journalism. While in school, he wrote multiple sports articles for the school newspaper, the Springfield Student, and joined Essex Media Group in August, 2022. Ryan is a college basketball fanatic and an avid Boston sports fan and in his free time, enjoys video games and Marvel movies.