The Summer That Saved City Basketball
How Team Nike changed NYC’s streetball scene and rescued it from monotony.
SLAM: As the whole idea was developing, there were innovations implemented in streetball that had never been done before. Why did you think they were needed?
WP: It really came down to, ‘OK, we have this team, how do we provide air cover or compliment that? And how do we generate interest and intrigue beyond word a mouth? That’s when you had the ads, the geographically targeted billboards at Dyckman. We had it right in the immediate area and galvanized the community to make a central hub and make them the new Dominican Power or the New Young Ones. We wanted the community to embrace them and it’s flawed without digital hub. Nike has decided that these are the top 10, why? Get consumers to understand who they are and if you’re not a hardcore fan, you can go and understand who Al Shep is and who Africa is. It allowed this to be a global conversation. You got Austin Rivers tweeting about it—he probably doesn’t even know what Dyckman is. Then you activate the players and their twitters and facebook pages and once it started it, it picked up steam and that all added to the attraction.
SLAM: Do you feel this whole experience created more of a community feeling for streetball? I mean every game there were tons of people from outside the Bronx and Harlem.
WP: Absolutely. Most of the people that normally go to the games are from there. You might go up there from out of borough if you’re a player, but people rolled through just to check out what this whole Team NIKE thing was about and see if they were really that good. Normally, you roll thick out of your borough to handle something, but I think it was great to see people making that trip to see the game and not for bullshit.
SLAM: Lets talk about the first Ooh Way game. That game was the most hyped summer ball game ever that was actually played—ha! Did it sting a little when Team NIKE lost to them?
PR: I’m a ballplayer and a boss. I wasn’t physically there, but I asked Will and Jus did we play the game the right way? Did we play as hard as we possibly could? When they said yes, I was at piece with losing the game because, at that point, we won before the tip. We wanted to create a buzz about NYC basketball again and we did that. I mean we were a trending topic on twitter. From a managerial standpoint I was like now the season begins. Now we’ll see what we’re made of. Ooh Way was a dope team and as crazy as it may sound, I was proud of them because it was always about representing our game the right way. I reached out to congratulate them, but I never for one second doubted my crew. We play them again and my money’s on Team NIKE.
SLAM: Lastly, explain to everyone how important Dyckman as a venue was and how this summer took streetball to a new level.
WP: Dyckman was exciting and competitive, so I think the environment was right to pick up the steam. You’ll get the showman, but the basketball is real. Because of that, it was the perfect venue. Dyckman already had the energy; their environment is like no other place. That venue is very unique and exciting and made everything come together.
PR: To answer your second question, I feel strongly that summer ball never went anywhere, but time has forced people to take it for granted. All we did was put a spotlight on the game, but we didn’t do anything new. The game was here long before you and I were here and it’ll be here after we’re gone. The spectacle showed North America that even the pro players respect what it means to come here and earn your name. You’ll probably see a lot more players coming here to prove something. Fans want to be excited about going to the park again and no other brand can create that with the relationships and resources we have. It’s our responsibility to keep it going. Now the pressure is on us to continue from here.