Kobe Bryant Streetball at Rucker Park
| KOBE BRYANT RUCKER PARK STREETBALL
New York City's Rucker Park hosts the most fun streetball
imaginable. Thursday night, the Entertainer's Basketball Classic (EBC), the park's
main summer league, presented a matchup of Murda Inc. against The Source, with
some very special guest players. Inside Hoops (.com) editor Jeff Lenchiner was
in the house to take in the action. Enjoy this exclusive report on Kobe Bryant
playing streetball in Harlem.
On one team was Mr. Los Angeles himself, Kobe Bryant. He showed up early, and his squad was ready to go for the 6pm tipoff. Things were delayed, because the other team was late. It was worth the wait, because when they did arrive, Moochie Norris of the Houston Rockets, Jerome Williams of the Toronto Raptors and Maryland's Byron Mouton were with them.
It was on, Harlem-style.
Two non-NBA players who showed nice skills were Prime Objective and Greg Jones.
All night, Moochie Norris kept firm control of the ball and threw some beautiful
passes, showing more flashy skills as the game went on. On fast breaks, "Muh-muh-muh-muh-Moochie"
kept things fun, going behind the back, faking one way and throwing no-look passes
the other. Norris unleashed showmanship we haven't had the pleasure of seeing
him display on the Houston Rockets.
And, for those who keep score at home, Norris' famous afro was contained, and braided. Maybe he'll unleash it next time.
Jerome Williams showed outside touch, and some better-than-expected dribbling
Kobe Bryant, the true star of the evening, had a tense look on his face and was
pretty tight out there to start things off, but he loosened up as the night progressed.
Early on, his teammates were not taking full advantage of the fact that he was
on their team. When Kobe did have the ball, and multiple defenders focused too
tightly on him, the live announcer yelled "No double teams! No double teams!"
- correctly pointing out that the crowd wants isolations, which open up the possibilities
for crazy moves and penetration for dunks.
Some of Kobe's highlights:
- In one play, Kobe was isolated on the right side of the court for a while, put on a nasty dribbling exhibition while playing to the crowd, drives to the basket, got bumped, but in mid-air pulled the ball under the basket for a beautiful reverse layup.
- The very next play, Kobe dribbled, swung the ball behind his back, but then extended further and threw a no-look pass to a teammate for a layup.
- Lots of drives with serious hang-time for layups - mostly reverses, similar to the first play above.
- Sweet passes, including alleyoops from Kobe to his teammates.
- A three-pointer from far beyond the line.
- Fun dribbling exhibitions, showing off a few tricks, and a sick handle.
Kobe did blow one big play, an open fast break with no defenders back. He tried to go through the legs for the dunk, but blew it and missed. That drew some clowning from the sidelines.
All game long, a heckler that was under the basket Kobe was defending was talking trash, yelling that Bryant is overrated and not stepping up to play. The heckler was loud, and even got Kobe's attention (though Kobe tried not to show it), at one point declaring that Bryant wasn't bringing it hard like he should. Hannibal, a Rucker announcer, went over to quiet the heckler down. When the second half began, and Kobe's team was now shooting at the basket near the heckler, Bryant began the half with the ball. A whistle stopped the action. The very next play, Kobe was working around the paint with the ball, cleared some room with an elbow, and then went up and threw down a dunk that looked much better in person than it did on television highlights you may have seen. He then glared straight at the heckler, who was almost directly behind that basket, and glared at him while backpeddling down the court. The crowd went nuts, pointing and talking trash at the heckler, who, at least for a few moments, seemed slightly humbled.
Steve Francis showed up during the game, but he's busy healing and was just there to hang out and watch. The crowd went nuts upon his arrival, chanting "Suit up! Suit up!" over and over, but it wasn't going to happen tonight.
"Three Rings," as the live announcer called Kobe (almost everyone at Rucker Park who really matters gets a nickname), got far more comfortable as the game progressed. He didn't bring it hard all night, but still put on a good show and produced some sweet plays that the crowd loved. Kobe Bryant had 15 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists when the game got called in the second half on account of rain.
For those of you who pay attention to the sneakers that your favorite basketball stars wear, as InsideHoops.com originally reported, Kobe was wearing Nike sneakers for the game. He last shoe deal was with Adidas, but that recently ended.
After the game, Inside Hoops recorded these comments from Kobe Bryant: "The atmosphere was cool, it took me back to playing in Philadelphia, playing on the parks... There's no atmosphere like Rucker..."
"I had a good time, I look forward to coming down here again next time."
When asked if he had fun tonight, InsideHoops.com recoreded these words from Kobe: "I had a lot of fun, you know, it's all about the game, coming out and playing, too bad it was raining..."
When asked about how the Lakers may feel about Kobe playing in a streetball game, Kobe said "They say be careful, they're really good about things like that... They just want you to be careful, and stay on your feet."
How much does Kobe know about Rucker history?" A lot," he said. "That's why I'm here today."
Rain did end this one early, but the night was fun while it lasted.
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