The film covers eight high school basketball participants playing in the first Elite 24 game at fabled Rucker Park in New York’s Harlem neighborhood.
Hoops devotees will recognize all of the featured players, who include Tyreke Evans, last year’s Rookie of the Year, Kevin Love and New York school boy legend Lance “Born Ready” Stephenson, among others.
Rucker holds a special place in basketball history and lore. One of the people in the film makes the point that top players like Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett come to the park to show that they can “play at that level, too.”
I first learned about Rucker from a classic basketball book that childhood best friend Vinnie called The In-Your-Face Basketball Book by Chuck Wielgus.
The work, which Bill Simmons writes about approvingly in The Book of Basketball, has a section about Rucker that details its history, its slew of memorable moments and some of its legends.
Some of the characters discussed are NBA Hall of Famers like Earl “The Pearl” Monroe, who also was called “Black Jesus” and “Black Magic.” But others are players who never made it to the league or whose careers got derailed by injury, drugs, legal problems or other issues.
Some of my favorite players in this category included Herman “Helicopter” Knowings, a guard who people swear they saw pluck two quarters off the top of the backboard and who allegedly was called for a three-second violation while jumping in the lane! Wielgus also talks about Earl “The Goat” Manigault, who was the subject of a Don Cheadle movie a few years ago.
The feats of players like these are part of the backdrop for the younger generation. I’ll wrap this post up now so that I can head down and see what the young bucks are able to do.