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June 14, 2003 Columns No Comments



An AND 1 Handbook – Sacramento Style

by Jimmy Spencer

Basketballs being whipped through the defender’s legs, bounced off their forehead, and then finally tossed towards the sky for a theatrical alley-oop. Suddenly the entire team explodes into dance as large crowds of fans surrounding the court admire this new hip-hop style of basketball.

The AND 1 series of basketball videos and DVDs has become a cult phenomenon among a nation of young basketball players. This basketball, with a hip-hop vibe, features the nation’s top playground stars such as Skip to My Lou (a.k.a. Toronto Raptors guard Rafer Alston), Hot Sauce, Main Event and many other streetballers who live to embarrass defenders.

The And 1 Mix Tape stopped at Arco Arena in Sacramento on June 10 for the third of their 33 nationwide stops on their 2003 summer tour. The best basketball talents of each city are pitted against the AND 1 players to compete for a spot on next year’s roster and an endorsement deal with And 1.

An open-run portion of the day selects three more players, who have walked on to the event, to play in the major game.

Open Run

The open run portion of the event ran started at 4 p.m., preceding the game at 7:30. Players from around the Sacramento area compete in an “American Idol” type of format where players are kicked off the court and the best are voted to stay on through a string of 5-on-5 games.

The participants are vying for a spot on the 2004 AND 1 Mix Tape Tour, an endorsement contract and a chance to be featured on ESPN’s second season of “Street Ball: The AND 1 Mix Tape Tour,” a ten-part series that will launch on July 8.

The games take place on an outdoor court surrounded by screaming, cheering and taunting fans. The primary objective for an open run player is not to win the game – I am not even sure if they kept score – or even to score the most points, instead they challenge the crowd to get loud through stellar dunks or brilliant dribbling moves.

AND 1 Mixtape Tour photos by Jimmy Spencer - Copyright 2003 Hoopville Media Enterprises, LLC
Dunkin’ during Open Run, the hoopty, and pressin’ the flesh.

The court, resembling a playground, features a tented area at center court featuring a D.J. and two announcers who provide a hilarious version of color commentary. The announcers are then joined by some of the AND 1 talent, who provide nicknames, both good (“Rising Star”) and bad (“No J. Simpson”), to the open run players.

Sacramento’s talent pool, at least on this particular Tuesday afternoon, was awful. With the exception of the three players who were chosen, there was absolutely no AND 1-style talent on the blacktop worthy of a stage in Arco Arena.

The open run didn’t provide much entertainment, as it resembled more of a junior high PE class.

Expositions were set up around the open run through sponsors Western Union, Nintendo, Scion, Mountain Dew and Lays Potato Chips. The displays allowed attendees a chance to win prizes, drink free soda and play video games on a plasma television popping out of the trunk of a 66 Impala show car.

The Crowd

According to NBA.com, the average age of an NBA fan is 36 years old. I’d estimate the average age of an AND 1 fan to be roughly 16-17 years old.

Five year olds dribbling behind their back instead of learning to dribble with their fingers instead of slapping at the ball with their palms. Seven year olds throwing passes off their friend’s foreheads instead of learning how to master a bounce pass. And 14 year olds doing 360-degree reverse lay-ups rather than aiming for that square on the backboard.

It was a different crowd, a new generation of basketball fans gathered to see the best streetballers in the world shine off the street. The allegiance of streetball fans resembled an actual hip-hop concert all the way down to the dancing and hollering on the side of the court. Nearly half the crowd suited up in retro apparel or AND 1 gear for the evening’s festivities.

The AND 1 Tour’s Players

With the exception of AND 1 star Rafer Alston (“Skip to My Lou”), the Tour’s squad features players who have played some college ball, some semi-pro ball, but have yet to find a place in the NBA. They feature a different type of explosiveness, skills and creativity that is unseen within an NBA or NCAA game.

Their skills are suited to making defenders look like idiots, not winning a basketball game.

The style of their game wouldn’t succeed in an organized game. Many of the things they do in their games – if they aren’t illegal in organized basketball – wouldn’t cut it in the NBA because of the size, toughness and talent of the pro players.

Streetball was around long before AND 1 ever decided to cash in on the idea. Most of today’s NBA stars grew up around the playground game, but were able to adapt their game to the conventional way of basketball. But now the playground game – that some feel is more exciting and entertaining than the traditional league – is finally getting its due and the game’s best are cashing in.

The AND 1 stars are much more modest than your average NBA star. As the saying goes, these young ballers are “keepin’ it real.” These class acts were out signing autographs for the fans before, during and after the show. They incorporate the crowd as much as possible and are doing it strictly for their fans – the way it should be.

Pregame Concert

Perhaps I am out of touch with the latest hip-hop scene – albeit at 20 years old I am a supporter of the music – because I failed to enjoy the mini rap concert that was dished out to the crowd both before the game and at halftime.

Maybe it was a result of a bad sound system, but the performance of Roscoe and David Banner made me think about getting up to buy a third crappy Kings Dog. But I stuck it out after glancing over at all the other people that didn’t quite fit into this AND 1 equation . . . namely the 64 year old white guy a couple of rows over from me. Suddenly, I didn’t feel so out of place and the music began sounding better as I got down with my generation.

The Main Event

The game pitted Team Sacramento, a group of local talent including the three players who were selected from open run, against the AND 1 tour team.

It’s hard to recap a game filled with highlights, especially when stats mean nothing compared to the head shaking moves and hair raising dunks.

AND 1 Mixtape Tour photos by Jimmy Spencer - Copyright 2003 Hoopville Media Enterprises, LLC
The Tour Bus, dancin’ during the game, King Bobby Jackson.

The game delivered on its promises of entertainment. Players passed up on open shots and dunks for another chance to embarrass defenders. They’d run around in circles for a little bit until lobbing it towards the lights where a guy like “50” (50 inch vertical leap) would snatch it from the air and slam it down.

The crowd was on its feet most of the game and roared at every crossover, alley-oop or pass off the backboard. The AND 1 team pulled away from Team Sacramento about midway through the first half and never looked back.

Final Score (like it mattered): AND 1 – 78, Team Sacramento – 59

Game’s MVP: New York native, former Sierra Junior College (in Sacramento) guard and Team Sacramento star Corey Overton A.K.A. “Dice.” The quick point man, who is a rap artist off the court, dazzled the crowd with his creativity and humiliating shakes.

Funniest Moment: Watching the AND 1 stars giving away their clothing to the crowd . . . right down to the boxers and tank top.

Most Awkward Moment: When a fellow media member sitting next to me yells to people in front of him to “SIT DOWN!” Who does this at an AND 1 event? This isn’t even acceptable to me in a baseball setting – definitely not cool in this environment. It was awkward . . .

Feel Good Moment of the night: When the players decided to gather around half court and all start dancing during the game . . . Classic!

Worst Moment of the night: Watching a ton of talented younger players whip the basketball through defender’s legs and drive ferociously through the lane only to repeatedly miss lay-ups and mid-range jumpers.

Highlight of the night: There were about 8,432 of them. In fact, I’m getting tired just thinking about all of them.

Best true basketball star there: Bobby Jackson, sitting courtside.

Knowing that if I stepped on the court with any of these guys they would embarrass the heck out of me: Priceless.

The AND 1 Mixtape Tour continues tonight (June 13th) in Oakland. More details can be found on the AND 1 Mixtape Tour Website.

     

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