Liberty, cheesesteaks, brotherly love and notoriously tough sports fans; Philadelphia has made some epic contributions to popular culture over the years. None of those has proven to be as enduring as perhaps the city’s most loveable export, the Fresh Prince himself, Will Smith. You may recall a certain game back on February 6 when Smith was in Montreal for Fashion Week and hit up the Bell Centre to cheer on his new favorite Habs, P.K. Subban and Brandon Prust, before grooving for the crowd when his hit song, “Gettin’ Jiggy with It” came on in the arena. After showing us that kind of love in our house, we decided to repay the favor when we made the trip to his old stomping grounds.
First up in our tribute to all things Big Willie Style, we set out to find the “playground where he spent most of his days” from the show’s opening credits. While it’s supposed to be set in West Philadelphia, the actual basketball court is located in the Fairmount section of Philly, in Roberto Clemente Playground. Our concierge warned us we might be venturing into a dangerous area of town, but after seeing a few dozen harmless eight year olds shooting hoops when we arrived, we assumed our well-meaning guardian angel was overly-influenced by seeing Will get spun around at center court by those “guys who were up to no good” so many times in the show’s intro.
Another side benefit of walking to our first stop on the Will Smith Tour of Philadelphia instead of taking a cab was stumbling across the likely inspiration behind the name of his fictitious cousin in The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Carlton Banks. Coincidence? Probably. But you never know…
Finally, after digging a little deeper into Smith’s roots in the City of Brotherly Love, we found the address of his old high school, which is actually located in West Philly. Turns out, Will Smith isn’t the only famous alumni to come out of Overbrook High School. Nine former Panthers have played in the NBA, including basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain, who has a plaque erected in his honor outside the school. Now part-owner of the Philadelphia 76ers, Smith, a newly-converted Habs fan, has some pretty tough acts to follow in his current venture into the world of pro sports.