The Whole Enchilada
Steve Burtt Jr understands the intricacies of the game.
SLAM: How has your game evolved as a result of playing overseas?
SB: I think since playing overseas I’ve become a better point guard. Like I said before there’s less isolation and tons of help defense, so it’s really helped me to read defenses, and find open men more. I was just a scorer coming in, but since being overseas my basketball IQ has definitely gone up.
SLAM: There is another side to you than just being an organized ball player—you are a very effective street ball player and love playing on the streets, from what I understand. Talk about how you earned your “Mr. 68 nickname” and why your game translates to the streets so effectively.
SB: I grew up in NYC, the mecca of street ball, so it’s definitely been a part of my life since I was a child. I grew up playing in the parks before I was ever a part of any team.
The name “Mr. 68″ came a few years back, when I scored 68 points in a game. The game was at legendary Rucker Park in the famed “EBC” tournament. This broke the tournament’s record for points in a game, and put me second to Joe Hammond for the overall park record (71 points). That was indeed a crazy day. I had no idea it was going to go like that. Basketball players know; sometimes you just get in that Zone where everything goes in, and I was very deep in that zone that day [laughs]. I only hit a few three-pointers; everything was layups and free throws. I think I shot about 24 free throws and made 21 or 22, so that helped. I was double teamed, triple teamed, and I couldn’t miss. I was in just as much awe as the crowd that was watching. But at the end of the day its an honor to hold such a record and be placed in NYC street ball history, and to do it at such a legendary park that people all over the world know about. People here in Ukraine even call me Mr. 68 [laughs]. Gotta love the internet!
SLAM: I read a quote from an article in the New York Post where you explained how you watched Allen Iverson and Steve Nash to learn from them. Explain the value of mimicking other people’s games and using them as an advantage.
SB: Well my dad always taught me that there’s no such thing as stealing in basketball [laughs]. Everyone’s game came from somewhere. You may not be able to do something exactly like that person, but there’s nothing wrong with taking something that one person does, and incorporating it into your own style of play and creating your own identity. For instance, at that time I watched Nash for his court vision, the way he never picks up his dribble and always has his head up. I watched Iverson because he was just tough as nails and was small, but played big. These are things that I try to incorporate into my game. It may not be a specific move, but something about that person that you can relate to. Wanting to be a better point guard, Nash was the perfect blue print. And being a scorer, so was Iverson. Now you have these hybrid point guards in the game today that score and dish (I.e. Derrick Rose, Westbrook, Deron Williams). These are guys that I look at nowadays. I’m always just trying to get better.
SLAM: You also said, “But when you look you never find,” as it relates to playing in the NBA. Do you that you can play—right now—in the NBA? How do you feel your game would fit in there? Is getting there still a goal of yours?
SB: Yes. I think I can play in the NBA right now. Unfortunately it’s not completely up to ME. All I can do is control my end of it, which is to keep getting better and better everyday, and hopefully make a big enough impact somewhere, so that the NBA feels I would be an asset to particular team. So that part I can’t worry about, ‘cuz I can’t control it. But as far as getting better, that’s a 24-7 job for me. I think my game would fit well, because like I said before, the game now consists of “hybrid” point guard’s that not only dish, but score, and score well. And I think that’s my game right there.
The NBA will always be a goal. How heart breaking it would be if I didn’t get there, Is an emotion that time has changed. But how happy I would be if I did, will always be there.
SLAM: What advice would you give to kids about the journey from little kid to professional basketball player?
SBJr: Never settle. Don’t ever think that you’ve reached your peak or that you can’t get any better. Keep working, because when you’re not, somebody, somewhere, is.