The King of Hoops
Current and former NBA players head down to Atlanta for invitational tournament.
by Maurice Bobb / @ReeseReport
Whether you have someone within earshot to hear it or not and you refrain from posting it on Facebook or Twitter, two words come bubbling to the surface of your mind with the inertia of a boulder rolling down a mountain whenever you enter the city limits of Atlanta: ATL, Shawty.
It’s the weekend, and the weather is hot and the air is ripe for summertime street basketball. The 2011 King of Hoops Pro-Am Basketball Tournament, which happens each year in Atlanta’s Bankhead neighborhood, is in full swing at the B.E.S.T. Academy. Tournament founder, Mike Reckord, and tournament commissioner and former NBA sharpshooter, Dennis Scott, troll the sidelines like expectant dads making sure the elimination-style tourney with the slogan, “There can only be one,” runs like a well-oiled machine.
“The reason I started this tournament was because I wanted to give the most elite players in the city a place to play other than Lifetime Fitness, where there’d be three good players on the floor and seven scrubs that mess up a game,” says Reckord. “So literally we created an invitational tournament and only invited the best of the best in the South to start with. Now it’s the best of the best from L.A. to New York.”
The best always brings out the best, which is why Jordan Brand decided to get involved.
“Jordan Brand got involved with us five years ago and like most sponsors, they started off by giving us one pair of sneakers,” says Reckord. “And what’s happened is they see how much we do in the community and they realize not only do we do a lot in the community but we deal with nothing but the elite ball players.”
All told, 16 teams from across the country battled it out for the King of Hoops crown. Last year’s champs, Houston Momentum, did their best to defend their title after taking their game to the Quai 54 International Streetball Tournament in Paris where they lost the title game 49-37 to French team La Relève back in June.
Numerous current and former NBA players like John Wallace, Trent Hassell, Damien Wilkins, Javaris Crittenton, Anthony Morrow and, crowd favorite, Josh Smith of the Atlanta Hawks, hoisted J’s and tattooed rims for the crowd on hand.
“This is definitely one of the biggest tournaments in the South and I think it’s on the level of Dyckman,” says Morrow, who currently laces ‘em up for the New Jersey Nets. “This is the southern version of the Dyckman or the Rucker. This is my first year playing in it I’m just happy to be a part of it. It’s fun and very competitive. Guys come from all over and I think it’s going to get more attention and get even bigger. It’s all about giving back to your roots because you grew up playing streetball and competing in summer leagues.”
For the most part, players were puffed up and brandishing bball trash talk like scout badges on their chests when facing NBA-ers, but that’s par for the course says Morrow.
“There’s been a lot of trash talk, but it’s all fun and games. You know guys gonna come at you hard but that’s the point. It’s all about coming out here for the fans and getting good runs. I love that Kevin Durant went out and dropped 60 at the Rucker because it shows that you can go anywhere and get buckets, you don’t have to just have plays run for you.”
Local hoops hero Smith has been playing in the King of Hoops since it started nine years ago.
“I was here when this tournament first started and it’s gradually increasing in the level of competition,” says Smith, who got the crowd off their feet with a lefty tomahawk jam in the semis. “From when I first started to now is unbelievable. Every game is competitive. Guys are gonna be excited to play against you. Certain guys think they have something to prove and you know I’m always prepared. I think tournaments like these give us as NBA players the opportunity to give people an opportunity to showcase our talents because sometimes tickets are too expensive for people to come out. Plus there’s the lockout so it’s not a lot of NBA basketball going on right now. This definitely gives us an opportunity to come out here and interact with the fans.”
After two days of action, Atlanta’s own Dirty South took home the crown. Richard Jeter, currently signed with Hoverla in the Ukraine, took home the MVP trophy after nailing back-to-back trifectas in the title game.
“This was a fantastic tournament and we’re only going to get better next year,” says Reckord. “We’ve had the Bahamas here and the Barbados national team. For our 10th year, we’re looking to get the French national team here so we’re working on making the King of Hoops the best of the best in the world.”