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June 20, 2003 Columns No Comments


Oakland All-Stars give AND 1 Tour a Bumpy Ride

by Nicholas Lozito

Lonnie Harrell stands amongst a small group of reporters in the Oakland Arena’s media room. The 30-year-old forward has paid his dues since graduating from Northeastern University, having spent time in the cities of Huntsville, Tampa Bay and Rapid City, playing for teams named the Flight, Thunderdogs and Thrillers. His wrist is bandaged, keeping the first-year And 1 player known as Prime Objective from participating in the night’s Oakland tour stop, scheduled to kick off in about 15 minutes.

On an overhead television, Jason Kidd and Tim Duncan duke it out in Game 4 of the NBA Finals. Below, the band of reporters shower Harrell with questions about his basketball career, present and past, avoiding the obvious question.

“You guys always ask me, ‘Why aren’t you in the league? Why aren’t you in the league?'” Harrell says. “You know I really can’t answer that question because you never know what a G.M. might think. It takes one person to like you. If you’re not lucky enough to get picked in the draft, then the road to get there is a tough one. It’s a long one. If you want it you’ve got to be persistent, which I am.”

For now, Prime Objective roams the countryside along with the rest of the And 1 Mix Tape Tour squad, presenting America with its latest craze – streetball. Currently working its way down the West Coast, the tour – made up mostly of East Coast players – has upgraded from last year’s sold out high school gyms to this year’s semi-packed arenas.

Each tour stop brings new meat, handpicked by the And 1 crew during a pre-game open-run competition in the arena’s parking lot.

For And 1’s Waliyy “Main Event” Dixon, the nation of challengers is nothing new. After all, a dunk over Main Event would just about secure anybody a spot on the tour bus.

“Main getting dunked on is nothing,” he says. “I mean, I’ve dunked on so many people, and there is only one person who has ever dunked on me – I was 15 years old – and that was (Greg) ‘Big Country’ Ostertag. So, you know, it’s nothing. I don’t see it happening again anytime soon.”

On this night, however, it’s a guarantee that nobody will be dunking over Main Event, as the 6-foot-5 Linden, New Jersey native is out for two more months after breaking his leg in a December car crash. Despite his absence, America’s streetballers aren’t hesitating to challenge the rest of the And 1 cast.

The tour invaded Sacramento’s Arco Arena three days prior to the Oakland stop, and the end result was a Sactown spanking, dealt out by the likes of And 1’s Hot Sauce, 50 and AO.

“Honestly, I thought Sacramento sucked,” said 6-foot-6 John Harvey, aka High Octane. “That’s what I told them. The best streetballers (so far on the tour) are down here in Oakland, definitely. Actually, there’s one cat out there right now. I didn’t get a chance to get his name, but he’s got some serious ups.”

Mr. Octane was referring to East Oakland’s own Eric “EMAK” Robinson, a 23-year-old Fremont High School graduate who claims he’s not a basketball player. As soon as EMAK took the open-run court he went straight for the rim. After ripping off a few aerial maneuvers to wake up the surrounding crowd, Robinson took his act old school. Mimicking fellow Oakland native Isaiah Rider in the 1994 NBA Slam Dunk Championship, EMAK went between the legs. Minutes later he converted a 360-degree dunk, in which he brought the ball down to his knees in mid flight.

With the rim still gathering itself, EMAK was given a spot into the final round of the open-run competition, in which the top-10 participants battle for the final three spots on the Oakland All-Star team. “The competition really ain’t all that, because they are trying to do all the fancy dribbling instead of really getting in a good run,” said Robinson, who stands approximately 6-foot-2, not including the dreds. “I’m not impressed by all the fancy dribbling; I just want to catch an oop. I just want to give the city of Oakland a 360 in front of everybody and bring down the house.”

Another Oakland streetballer contending for a spot on the all-star team was Demarshay Johnson, a 6-foot-9 product of Oakland Technical High School who the DJ nicknamed Mutumbo. Johnson, with former Tech teammate and current McDonald’s All-American Leon Powe on hand, advanced to the final round after twice stuffing his arm in the rim.

“They’re all good game right now,” said Johnson about his potential And 1 competition. “There’s nobody in particular I can pick out right now, but whoever is under the rim is gonna get it. It’s nothing. I’m gonna put my arm in the rim on somebody. I damn near guarantee it.”

Johnson wasn’t given the chance to shine on the Oakland Arena floor on this night, as his affiliation with the University of Nevada-Reno disqualified him from the event. Other collegiate participants in the open run were Sacramento State’s Tony Champion and Derek Lambeth, who both failed to advance to the final round.

EMAK, however, did advance to the night’s main event with an overwhelming amount of crowd support influencing the judges’ decision. Little did he know that his quickly acclaimed Oakland-streetball-legend status was set to receive a mighty blow when he took his game indoors. Along with the pre-selected group of Oakland All-Stars, Robinson stepped into the arena’s pit with an eager crowd of Bay Area youth watching over the clashing squads.

Minutes after taking the court, Robinson was laying on his back, victim of a Headache crossover. Eager to avenge his prior embarrassment, EMAK attempted to dunk over 50. Bad move. 50 sent the dunk flying in the opposite direction and added a Mutumbo-style finger wag for exclamation. The same fans that had voted Robinson into the game an hour earlier were now calling for his head.

Despite EMAK’s misfortunes on the court, the Oakland All-Stars closed the half with a 42-33 lead. The first half featured many mistimed lobs and miscalculated tricks on the And 1 side, while Sky’s the Limit and Spin Master led an Oakland team which was much more focused on a win than a good show.

Following a halftime performance from David Banner (Yep, oddly enough the only man on the court without a nickname was the rapper), the And 1 team returned to the court with a much different mindset. Alley-oops turned into lay-ups, smiles turned into game faces, and the crowd turned… well… quiet. In the end, the Oakland All-Stars shocked the crowd and embarrassed their “legendary” opposition with a slim 72-69 victory.

But in the streetball world, scores fade away with time. What the 2003 And 1 tour stop in Oakland will be remembered for is a kid they call EMAK (short for Immaculate). For his sake, let’s hope they remember the between-the-legs jam.

The AND 1 Mixtape Tour continues this weekend in Texas, with Dallas on June 21st, and Houston on June 22nd. More details can be found on the AND 1 Mixtape Tour Website.

     

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