Nike Pro City

July 23, 2008

I recently read an article by ESPN.com’s Scoop Jackson about the deified New York City point guard. Scoop’s piece noted the decline of worshiped guards coming out of the Big Apple, citing the meteoric rise and subsequent fizzle of Sebastian Telfair as a turning point. NYC guards never changed the game, but gone are the days when players like Mark Jackson, Kenny Anderson, Rod Strickland and Stephon Marbury dominated the playground then went on to have notable NBA careers. Scoop’s point was that…who cares? NYC point guards are adapting their game to the pro level less and less frequently because–so what if the world doesn’t know their name…NYC basketball heads do, and that’s all that matters to them.

All summer I’ve been meaning to catch a few Nike summer league games at the city’s hallowed grounds for summer ball: Hunter College, West 4th, Dyckman and Conrad McRae, among others. These courts host games featuring rising college stars, current and former NBA players and playground dudes. Pro City at Hunter College (68th and Lex) has runs each Tuesday and Thursday nights, Dyckman (204th and Nagle) each weekend for the most part, West 4th every damn day and Conrad McRae (Park Slope) on Saturdays and Sundays. For comprehensive info on each court and full schedules, check out Nike Basketball’s NYC page HERE. If you go on the right day, you might just witness the next God Shammgod. While we’re on the topic of Shamm, check out a highlight reel from the ’95 McDonald’s game…

Tonight, the basketball gods have shined on the Chicago Bulls. With less than a 2% chance to win the 2008 Draft Lottery, the Bulls pulled the largest upset of the season by beating out the rec-league teams of Miami, Seattle, and Minnesota. Now the Bulls are faced with the tough decision between Memphis phenom Derrick Rose or Kansas State man-beast Michael Beasley.

Both players are leaving after prolific freshman seasons. Derrick Rose carried his team to the NCAA Championship game, while averaging 14.9 pts 4.5 rebs 4.7 asts 1.2 stls. Michael Beasley wasn’t a slouch either. He led his less-talented Kansas State team to the second round of the tournament, while averaging a panty-dropping 26.2 pts 12.4 rebs 1.3 stls 1.6 blks. Both these players are 19 year old future millionaires with the skills to become perennial allstars.

As an avid Bulls fan, I am ecstatic about this opportunity. They already boast a solid team with a core of Luol Deng, Ben Gordan, and Kirk Hinrich along with talented youngsters in Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah. Based on need, I would say that Beasley would be a perfect fit. He’s the front court presence they need, and he has attitude. His low post moves are mature, and he’ll rip another guy’s (friend or foe) head off for a rebound. The problem is: Rose seems like a potential superstar in the mold of Dwayne Wade. If Rose blows teams away in workouts, I would push for a trade of Kirk or Ben and Tyrus for a low post player. Rose will be the closer the Bulls need.

Anyways, I think either player will help the team. Next season is going to be great, and I’m definitely buying tickets to watch the Bulls rip the Knicks. I can’t wait to hear the Boos of Knicks fans rain down from MSG on that overpaid pu pu plater of players as Rose/Beasley drop 30.

I was watching the Celtics-Cavs playoff game tonight and thinking about how the mystique of the slam dunk seems to have evaporated from the NBA game. Players have evolved in both strength and athleticism to such a degree that dunking is no longer particularly special. This led me to seek out some vintage slam dunk clips, when players with nicknames like “Spud,” “Air,” and “Human Highlight Film” ruled the skies. Theirs was an era when dunks weren’t just about power, but about grace. Jordan’s foul line jam and Dominique’s trademark windmill were works of art. Plus dudes back then were killin’ it with the high-top fade. And another thing, what is it with the lack of creativity in athletes’ nicknames these days??? Have we regressed to the point where the best we can do is put a spin on the player’s real name? “‘melo,” “AI” and “KG” are all we’ve got? Give me “The Rainman,” “The Glyde,” and “The Mailman” any day.

In any event, below are some vintage dunk contest clips. The first is footage from Spud Webb’s victory in 1986…you can’t help but smile while watching. The second is a montage from Jordan and ‘Nique’s contests in 1985, 1987 and 1988 (I love that the voice over sounds like narration of an epic battle). The third witnesses Dee Brown and Shawn Kemp duke it out in 1991.

Spud Webb – 1986:

Jordan & Dominique – 1985, 1987, 1988:

Dee Brown & Shawn Kemp – 1991: