Representation matters. Earlier this week Philadelphia children gathered in awe around the newest addition to West Passyunk’s Smith Playground; a statue inspired by the late legendary athlete Ora Washington. According to CBS Philly, the sculpture—dubbed “MVP”—was added to the park as a part of Philly’s 60th Anniversary of the Percent for Art Programs.
The statue—which was created by Brian McCutcheon—stands at 5 foot 4 inches tall and depicts a young girl playing basketball. Washington, a Philadelphia native, broke barriers on both the tennis and basketball courts. While playing basketball for the Germantown Hornets, she led them to a national women’s title in 1930 and helped them earn 33 consecutive wins the following year. She also played with the Philadelphia Tribune Girls between the years of 1932 and 1942. Her athletic abilities went beyond the basketball court. Often referred to as the “Queen of Tennis,” she won the American Tennis Association’s national singles title eight times and won 12 straight double championships; marking her place in history as a sports legend.
Bringing the plan for the statue to fruition was a collaborative effort between the Percent for Art Program, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, Make the World Better Foundation, and Councilwoman Kenyatta Johnson. Leaders of the initiative hope that the sculpture will inspire youth—specifically young girls—to realize their dreams. “The children and teens that come to Smith Playground everyday can see and be inspired by this powerful sculpture that looks like someone in their community,” Kelly Lee, Philadelphia’s Chief Cultural Officer, told Patch in a statement. “My hope is, like the Rocky statue, MVP will become a local destination where people will come, replicate the pose, take photos, or selfies and if only for a moment feel like a MVP – a most valuable player.”
Throughout the years Washington has received several posthumous accolades for her accomplishments in sports. In the 1980s she was inducted into Temple University’s Sports Hall of Fame. She also has been inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame and the Basketball Hall of Fame.