by Daniel Friedman / @DFried615
When he started out, Rafer “Skip 2 My Lou” Alston was just a skinny kid from Queens who had a few flashy dribbling moves that drew cheers from the crowds. He had hopes of bringing his talents to the next level, just like any young kid playing the game he loved. Little did Alston know, those revolutionary moves, those crowds and a shaky video made by his high school coach Ron Naclerio, would change the game forever.
The possibility of fame and fortune now existed outside the usual realm of the NBA or playing professionally overseas. But the video that led to the formation of the epic AND 1 Mixtape Tour wasn’t created to bolster Alston’s popularity, or to get him signed to a hoops deal. With the news of Alston’s innovative moves circulating blacktops across the country, the video was put together for historical record. Naclerio figured he should capture what Alston was doing so that people could witness for themselves what a kid from Jamaica, Queens, was doing to revolutionize the game, one “skip 2 my lou” at a time.
By 1998, Alston would be on his way to the NBA after being selected by the Milwaukee Bucks with the 39th overall pick of that year’s Draft. It was around that time that Naclerio decided to submit what had become known as “The Skip Tape” to the AND 1 sports brand. A simple gesture led to the birth of the AND 1 Mixtape Tour, paving the way for the future of streetball.
The rest was history. The tour became recognized around the world due to their reputation and showmanship. ESPN also began televising the events on their reality show Streetball. With the rise of the genre, Alston became a legend for his part in its inception, and monikers like Hot Sauce, AO, Main Event and The Professor became household names.
Over the years, the lights shining on AND 1 began to fade, eventually going out in 2008. Since then, new tours have popped up all across the country trying to take advantage of the popularity that still exists for the genre. One name that’s making noise with many of the familiar faces from AND 1 is Ball Up, a streetball tour put together by Demetrius Spencer.
SLAMonline recently caught up with Alston as he assisted Sebastian Telfair in coaching the NYC squad against Ball Up’s All-Stars when they made their stop in New York last week.
SLAM: How did you initially get into streetball?
Skip 2 My Lou: I’ve been playing streetball all my life, man. Streetball is a way of life in New York. Everything’s basketball in New York, and all the other sports become second fiddle to that.
SLAM: Who were some of the guys you looked up to back in the day?
Skip: There were a lot of guys we looked up to back in the day—Master Robb, Dancin’ Doozey, Carlton Herns—there were so many of them. Pretty much the whole apartments were up there as far as I was concerned.
SLAM: How has streetball changed since the heyday of the AND 1 Mixtape Tour?
Skip: It’s kind of similar as far as the AND 1 stuff. It’s not much different. It does have potential to get bigger though, I will say that. But people forget AND 1 was it, they captured an entire city every time they rode that tour bus into town. But [Ball Up] is on the same level. It’s getting better and better each year they roll it out.
SLAM: What were some of the most memorable times in the tour’s history?
Skip: We had a lot of good times —playing on Venice Beach, coming here to New York, going to Philly, DC. We did a lot of stuff in neighborhood parks where they play streetball in those cities, so that was always the fun part about it.
SLAM: What was the transition like going from the streetball style to the pro style in the NBA?
Skip: It was similar for me because I was always a student of basketball. Growing up, I always watched basketball and was in the house taping games and watching those tapes. My whole life revolved around basketball growing up as a kid so it was easy for me.
SLAM: Going into the NBA, were there any skeptics because of your streetball background?
Skip: Just coaches. A lot of the coaches were really naïve and they all kind of think alike. They all had this preconceived notion that just because they call you a streetball player, you don’t know how to play. The players, well some players didn’t want to guard me in the NBA. But it was really just coaches.
SLAM: What are some of your favorite memories from your time in the NBA?
Skip: A lot of moments, man. Scoring 31 points and hitting 8 threes one night against the Lakers. Obviously, winning 22 games in a row (with the Houston Rockets), and then going to Orlando and making it to the Finals. That was a terrific moment.
SLAM: How has the point guard position changed with the rise of scoring guards like Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose?
Skip: The scoring point guard is what [the NBA] is leaning toward. I think the teams that really win the titles don’t have scoring point guards. See Miami, they have [Mario] Chalmers, they don’t have that scoring point you know. A lot of times those teams are more successful because as good as those guys are—I love watching Westbrook and Rose—when they dominate the ball as much as they do, the defense doesn’t have to worry about the other players on the team.
SLAM: You spent some of your best years with the Houston Rockets—including the year they won 22 games in a row, the third longest streak in League history. So what do you think about their future with the acquisition of Dwight Howard?
Skip: It’s big, big for Houston and for the Rockets. That’s probably what they were missing last year, a low post player. They had the perimeter game with Parsons, Lin and Harden. I think [Omer] Asik was good, he had a good year last year, but now they’ve got a good weapon in the low block.
SLAM: What are your thoughts on the state of streetball and tours like Ball Up?
Skip: It’s pretty good. It’s fun. That’s what you want to do with tours like these, you want to have fun. That’s what it’s all about.
SLAM: How important is it to have games like this in New York City?
Skip: It’s wonderful. It’s what New York’s about. You see there are still people outside that are still trying to get in, you know. It’s what New York is all about.
SLAM: Do you have any plans when your playing career is over? Do you think you’d go into coaching?
Skip: Ahhh, I might. I just might. But I would probably love to coach college ball instead of the pros.
SLAM: With your diverse basketball background, your legacy is complex. How do you want people to remember you as a player?
Skip: As a guy that can play. I think that’s what the people will remember me as—even as a kid—as a guy that can flat out play, and he loves to compete.