I spent the last few days in New York City… mostly at Rucker Park in Harlem… at the World Basketball Festival. I was mainly grabbing video of the various events, but I managed to pull out my cell phone and grab a few still shots here and there.
Nike put this World Basketball Festival together as a celebration of the game. And the running theme throughout the weekend was "For the love of the game." It was great to have it at Rucker because there are few places where the game is loved more than that court right there. And while The Rucker is no longer the pick-up spot where street legends are made (it's reserved primarily for leagues and events now)…. it still symbolizes a place where social status meant nothing. At Rucker, it didn't matter if you were rich or poor, black or white, old or young. If you had game, you had respect.
One quick story that captures that love and respect for the game came on Friday afternoon. Brazil and Puerto Rico played in a scrimmage. Now… if you watch ball at The Rucker, you know there are MC's calling the game over the speakers as it's going on. Well, Brazil and Puerto Rico weren't exactly giving it their all. Some people said they were maybe giving it 10%…. which didn't go over well with the crowd. They were booed… loudly… and the MC's called them on it. "You can't disrespect this court by dogging it" one of them yelled.
It got to both teams… and both teams picked it up a little in the second half. But that's the passion that fills Rucker Park. Respect the game, and we'll respect you. Love the game, and we'll love you for it. For those of us who truly love the game, it was an honor to be in a place where that passion is expected… and rewarded.
Ok, enough of my blabbing. After the jump, some of the snapshots from the weekend:
Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul took the court on Friday morning (as did Carmelo Anthony, not pictued above) to run through some drills with the kids. Of course, DWade and CP3 got a little carried a way… and Wade started rejecting some of the kids' shots. They were having fun with it… but some of it might have been a little much.
Michael Jordan shocked the crowd by showing up in the middle of the drills. Her e he is on a blazing hot day wearing a full Carolina blue sweatsuit. Here, he's sitting with DWade and Melo. They presented checks to some youth organizations before moving to the back for a news conference. MJ didn't participate… he took off for Springfield to present Scottie Pippen for the Hall of Fame.
Yeah… that's Anderson Varejao about 6 inches from me. And you know what I did to him? Nothing.
I missed my chance.
Day 2 started with another clinic for kids… this time with Kobe Bryant as the guest. But unlike Dwyane Wade and CP3… Kobe actually stopped to help teach these kids. And yeah, I'm 0-for-2 at this point in my trip in confronting the players I hate most in the NBA.
This is the view of Sunday's USA-France game at Madison Square Garden. This time, I was there as a fan, not a member of the media. But I still had a very cool experience.
First, that's Rajon Rondo on the left there….. running a play with Kevin Durant. I had some time to talk to Oklahoma City GM Sam Presti and owner Clay Bennett. Mid-game, Joakim Noah showed up… shoeless… and looking like he was in his pajamas. I.. did nothing.. making me 0-for-3 in doing something… ANYTHING… to the 3 players I hate most in the NBA.
So I'll stop talking shit now.
Other players were in that same section. Tony Parker and Eva Longoria were there and walked right past me up the stairs. I saw Ron Harper and Alan Houston… and I started having NBA Jam flashbacks.
I didn't make it to every event. There were things around NYC that I just couldn't get to. But the World Basketball Festival as a whole was a great time and a good chance to see some of these guys giving back… plus experience the game of basketball like I never have before.