When Mayor Marty Walsh on Thursday dedicates the Michael L. Bivins Court at Ramsay Park on Washington Street, Michael L. Bivins — the Biv in Bell Biv Devoe — isn't sure how he'll react.
"I might just be numb," Bivins (inset) told us Tuesday. "It'll probably hit me next year when the renovation is done and they cut the ribbon and hit that light switch and the kids say, 'Yo man, this looks nice, Mike, look at them lights.' "
There was a time, before New Edition and before Bell Biv Devoe, when basketball was everything to Bivins. He grew up in Roxbury, but he played ball all over the city — on courts in Savin Hill, Mattapan, Mission Hill, and the South End. He'd played all day and sometimes into the night, and he was good.
"I'm not a hockey player getting a basketball court named for me. I put in a lot of time playing ball," he joked. "Ball was my way out. Until I met my brothers in New Edition, ball was gonna be my way out. One way or another, I was gonna get out."
Eventually, he did. New Edition, which included Bivins, Ricky Bell, Bobby Brown, Ronnie DeVoe, Johnny Gill, and Ralph Tresvant, was a pioneering boy band, scoring hits with "Candy Girl," "Cool It Now," and "Mr. Telephone Man," and blazing the trail for the likes of New Kids on the Block, Boyz II Men, Backstreet Boys, and NSYNC.
In January, BET will air "The New Edition Story," a six-hour series that Bivins thinks could win the band new fans. In the meantime, Bell Biv Devoe is back with a new song, "Run," and in January a new CD, "Three Stripes."
If you told the teenage Michael Bivins he'd be here all these years later, with a career in the music business and a basketball court in Roxbury that bears his name, he wouldn't have believed you.
"Nah. When the leaders came to me last year [about the basketball court], it caught me off guard. I was really dumbfounded, like, wow," says the singer, who hosts an annual basketball tourney at the court at Ramsay Park. "There's street names for other people, public figures like Martin Luther King Jr. and Marcus Garvey, but nobody from my city has a street sign or nothing, so this really touches me."