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Steven B. Jacobson

basketball player, was born Cornelius Hawkins in Brooklyn, New York, the fifth of six children of Isaiah Hawkins, a sometime railroad employee, and Dorothy Hawkins, a nursery school cook. When many affluent residents of Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant section moved to the suburbs after World War II, Hawkins's family stayed behind in a coldwater flat. His father left the family when Hawkins was nine years old, and his mother was stricken with blindness during Hawkins's teenage years. Hawkins typically had only one shirt, one pair of pants, and taped-together shoes with cardboard covering holes in the soles, until basketball boosters began providing him with clothes and spending money during his sophomore year of high school—a common occurrence at the time.

Hawkins learned basketball on the highly competitive playgrounds of Brooklyn and adjacent Queens Known for spectacular individual play he could jump high enough to dunk by age eleven and ...