Every summer, New York City’s public basketball courts become inundated with the greatest young athletic talent in the nation. On courts such as Rucker Park on 155th Street and Eighth Avenue or Dyckman of 204th Street and Nagle Avenue, grit, talent, and skill are showcased at the highest level for all to see. Teams who step onto these courts must prove their ability to survive in a fast-paced, unapologetic whirlwind of talent vying to win. With all other organized basketball closed for the summer, players flock to these courts for the best competition.
The agglomeration of basketball genius and talent has turned the city-maintained courts of New York City into a must-see phenomenon showcasing the best streetball in the world. A different style of basketball is played on these courts than can be seen anywhere else. Hustle, strong will, and above all-flash, are the valuable characteristics that can make certain players rise to the top. Only those who know how to play the style of streetball can make a name for themselves on this stage.
Any and everyone is welcome to walk in and watch these exciting, highlight-filled games. Weekend games often begin early in the day with players as young as ten years old and graduate to professional-level competition by the evening. As a crowd increasing in size files in throughout the day, the atmosphere and hype surrounding the games are nearly as quintessentially Harlem as the play itself: lively and exciting.
These asphalt courts have a worldwide reputation for greatness and a venerated history to match. The parks have been home to numerous basketball legends ranging from older NBA icons like Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Julius Irving to newer NBA icons such as Ron Artest, Lance Stephenson, and Kemba Walker. Not only regional talent but also established stars and popular upcoming prospects are known to occasionally drop in. Nearly no prominent New York City player who has made it in basketball hasn’t first had to stand the test of the summertime competition in the parks.
Recent films such as Uncle Drew starring NBA star Kyrie Irving, Shaquille O’Neill, Tiffany Hadish and Nick Kroll have featured Rucker Park as the hub of organized non-professional basketball. Although the players who commonly play on these courts are often young and rather unknown, their skills rival the best and the style of play is unlikely to be found anywhere else. The reputation of these games has been noted by coaches and basketball scouts to be some of the greatest showings of raw talent and as a result of social media, this knowledge is being shared and broadcast to the world.
Young stars such as Jahvon Quinerly (who currently plays point guard for Villanova) have achieved a level of fame while playing in the park circuit. After repeatedly creating Instagram-worthy highlights on both the Dykman and Rucker courts Quinerly now has nearly half a million followers on Instagram and is known nationwide for his signature layup style called the “jelly.”
The illustrious reputation of these games has had significant positive effects on their respective communities which have been historically underserved. As listed on the Dyckman Basketball website as their tournaments enter “its 30th year, this NBA and NCAA-sanctioned tournament, held seven days a week, reaches up to 1,500 spectators daily during the summer. Over the past few years, the tournament has become one of the most highly anticipated and notable summer basketball events within the New York Tri-state area.” They additionally attest that “since the inception of the tournament, murder, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, and grand larceny in the 15th Congressional District have all dropped an average of 67% (NYPD COMPUSTAT UNIT).”
Summer street basketball is the optimal chance for basketball fans to experience high-quality play, throughout often unexplored regions of the city, along with an atmosphere of excitement that resembles something straight out of a movie. The character and personality that these games harbor within the New York City parks are unparalleled. The excitement could cause a crowd to rush the court after highlight or make them jeer after a crucial mistake. With a good chance that you could see players on these courts moving up to a larger stage such as the March Madness tournament, attending an evening street game is an experience that will not be forgotten.
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