On Saturday night, Manhasset’s LL Cool J was not working one of his regular gigs. Nope, not helming his newish SiriusXM radio classic hip-hop platform “Rock The Bells,” not hosting a lip-sync battle or Grammy Awards ceremony or acting in the police series “NCIS: Los Angeles.”
Instead, looking fit and dressed in a slim gray sweatsuit and signature beanie, the rapper turned auctioneer, whipping up bidders at luxury store Hirshleifers at the Americana Manhasset shopping center to pay big bucks for designer goods such as a Chanel bag (it went for $4,200) or special-edition Nike sneakers (he sold three pairs at $1,000 each) all for charity. The event was part of the shopping center’s Champions For Charities initiative where 25 percent of customers’ full-price, pretax purchases at participating stores will be donated to chosen charity organizations.
Proceeds went to Jump & Ball, a basketball camp for kids ages 8-18 that the rapper launched in 2005 in St. Albans, Queens, where he grew up. The camp is “very near and dear to my heart,” he said. “Jump & Ball is not an obligation but it almost feels like I’ve decided that it’s my duty, it’s important to me. This is my old neighborhood, and I know what it’s like to walk around Queens and not having anything to do. My grandmother used to say, ‘An idle mind is the devil’s workshop,’ and when you have people thinking about how to feed their families and struggling, it makes it easier to be seduced by certain forces,” he said. “This gives the kids who are out there in Queens in those situations the opportunity to get away and learn about teamwork, community, networking, and it’s something they love, because basketball is so fun.”
The money he raised on this night is meaningful. “We get plenty of donations of goods and we’re grateful for them. But the money allows us to take it to the next level, it buys us time and allows us to include more kids in the program,” he said. Charitable causes run in the family. His wife, Simone Smith, was there, too. Her eponymous jewelry collection was selling briskly, with a portion of each purchase going to the American Cancer Society.