Basketball never stops. But, the summer does and it's just different on the NYC blacktop. The singular New York energy is what separates the likes of Gersh Park, Hoops in the Sun, or Dyckman apart from outdoor summer basketball across the rest of the country. To be fair, I have never roamed the sidelines of the Drew League in Los Angeles and while it's an indoor summer league, I would like to witness the energy for a good game there sometime soon. But I'm from the Mecca of hoops and every summer I make what, to me, is a sacred pilgrimage to every league time allows me to make it to. And there are plenty of elite summer leagues in NYC.
When in NYC during the summer months a stop at West 4th court is almost mandatory. It's almost rude to not visit these hallowed grounds at least once in a New York summer. This championship featured the two-time defending champs Unusual Suspects (pretty much the same squad that goes by Madoff Movement at Gersh Park) against Diamond. This one could have gone either way, but in the end it was Diamond who snatched away a potential three-peat from the Unusual Suspects and took the crown.
With very little time to wallow in the thrill of their victory, Diamond jumped on the highway headed up to the BX for the HITS championship where two of their stars were honored as the regular season co-MVPs at halftime.
I love going up to Orchard Beach to create my shots from the sidelines of Hoops in the Sun, a league run by brothers Joe and Randy Cruz and their terrific staff of basketball aficionados. Games up there have the feel of an NBA game, but on a beach in the Bronx. The ambiance is due in large part to announcers Uncle G Stacks and Bobby Cee whose style has a Marv Albert, Clyde Frazier vibe. When I go up there I feel like I'm among family. The games are competitive and feature NYC's biggest names and the championship, in particular, is one of the most coveted titles in Gotham—in no small part because they have one of the most generous championship packages I've ever seen.
Ben Gordon's crew, whose starting point guard, Gio "Batteries Not Included" McLean I had the pleasure of coaching while he was still in high school, pushed the tempo in hopes of tiring the legs of Diamond's crew. Although, Diamond did not go out without a fight, Ben Gordon's squad maintained control and popped the champagne bottles in the end.
It is no secret that I'm a fan of what Damian Pitts and his squad have built at Gersh Park. You can click here to view some of my images from when Erving "I-95" Walker went toe-to-toe with Levnance Fields. The only summer league in NYC whose finals are decided by a best-of-3 games series, the event did not disappoint. It was Madoff Movement vs the Sean Bell All-Stars, and you probably cannot find two teams who are more familiar with one another. Christ the King alumni Erving Walker, Malik Booth, and Ryan Pearson were on a mission and lead Madoff to a sweep over the formidable Sean Bell All-Stars.
NYC has its own indoor summer league that is known for drawing out the pros and that is, appropriately named, Nike Pro City. This championship featured NYC basketball royalty in Bingo's All-Stars and the inimitable Big Apple Basketball program. After dominating in just about every major tournament NYC has to offer, this was coach Maxwell "Bingo" Coles's first crack at Pro City and he brought out his veterans. From Corey "Homicide" Williams and Keydren "Wet Those" Clark to Anthony "I-Robot" Glover and Quinton "T2" Hosley, Bingo relied on his tried and true corps of NYC legends. A relatively new addition to Bingo's squad is Dominic "Domo" Jones who played a pivotal role in this championship.
Meanwhile, Big Apple Basketball led by coach Jason Curry featured Chaz Williams—possibly the most dynamic point guard out of NYC right now—and the recently inked Dallas Maverick, Jarrid Famous on a deep roster full of talented stars including former LA Laker Derrick Caracter. After a see-saw battle and a ferocious comeback led by Chaz Williams, it was Bingo once again hoisting that elusive championship trophy.
I hope you enjoy the pics. I'll be back soon with some images from Nike's illustrious Tournament of Champions going down just outside of the Barclays Center on Saturday, August 15th.