Dedication To Realness
The Ball Up Tour is leading the streetball evolution.
by Maurice Bobb / @ReeseReport
They come for the excitement.
They come for the respite from bloated max contracts, the trade machine, the lockout, the free agency musical chairs and all the disgruntled players who want to take their talents elsewhere.
They come for the sick alleys, the in-your-face dunks, the Thelonious Monk-like improvisations with the rock, the oohs and the ahhs and, of course, the did you see thats.
They come for the interaction and the camaraderie with the players and the body rockin’ DJ, who exerts a kind of mesmeric boom bap as the game progresses to its crescendo. They come for the NBA players trying their hands at the Xs and Os on the sidelines. They come for the flair with which every player displays whilst demolishing all comers.
But most of all, streetball fans nationwide come for the sacred purity of the game.
Ball Up is more than just a distraction from your regularly scheduled NBA programming. It’s a streetball league hell bent on proving itself as a viable addition to your basketball fandom.
Players like Violator, Sik Wit It, Springs, AO, Mr. Afrika, Pat the Roc, Bone Collector, Special FX and overwhelming crowd favorite, The Professor play because they love the game. They respect it. The players of Ball Up, an All-Star team of the most celebrated and talented streetball players in the world, is not just a band of tricksters, who get away with double dribbles and traveling. They’re a team of ballers representing the evolution of streetball—the rawest form of basketball—with a resounding respect for the game.
And now, they’re looking for another like-minded streetball aficionado.
On a national tour that began in Los Angeles, Ball Up is searching for the next best streetball star through a series of open run tryouts, followed by the first-ever Ball Up combine camp and then a championship game. The tour culminates in one player being crowned MVP and winning a player contract as the newest member of the Ball Up team.
“We couldn’t be more excited about taking Ball Up on the road for a second year,” said Ball Up CEO Demetrius Spencer. “Ball Up was created to inspire young athletes and provide the opportunity to showcase their skills and achieve their dreams. We are really proud to help promote these world-class athletes and to be the catalyst for the incredible progression of streetball as a sport and a lifestyle.”
On the Houston leg of its tour, Ball Up rolled into the Delmar Fieldhouse complete with its own tour bus and camera crew. The game started off with a sick double hand alley to Air Up There, igniting the crowd. The red, white and blue wigged announcer, Duke Tango, kept the fans cheering like banshees as the streets’ own version of the Harlem Globetrotters served up 48 minutes of highlight reel entertainment.
By the game’s end, they’d set their sights on two lucky locals with professional streetball dreams.
“We’re going around to find the next best streetball player,” Spencer said. “The opposing team is comprised of players that tried out to see if they could make it to that night’s game and at the end of the game, we take two on to the end of the season, where they come to a combine workout and at the end there’s one person that’s gonna get a contract with Ball Up to tour and play and join the team. We’re looking for the best. These guys at the end of the day are also just good ball players. They do the tricks, the ability to play the game with flair. They have to have a mixture. Everybody even in the League (NBA) has flash in their game when they want to. You can look at a lot of players that do. So really it’s just somebody with a good head on their shoulders, it’s an opportunity to play a professional sport, get paid for it and live out their dreams.”
One such player living out his dream is Air Up There, aka Mr. 720, aka Taurian J. Fontenette. A crowd favorite because of his eye-popping leaping ability and his signature 720-degree and 360-degree between-the-legs dunks, the Hitchcock, TX, native does what he can to give the crowd what they want.
“Everything I do as far as basketball comes natural,” Fontenette said. “You never know what you’re going to do. With me, if I jump to a certain height, I can move the ball around. I’ve been dunking for a long time. So when I get in the air and I’m comfortable with my levitation, I can do anything up there.”
Dunking is great for entertainment, but for Fontenette, the brand of ball that he and his band of brothers are taking from the baked blacktops and asphalts of their origins to nationwide parquet floors is about more than just showboating.
“With the AND 1 Mixtape, it was more about promoting the shoes and the clothing line,” Fontenette said. “With us, we’re trying to promote streetball, letting people know that streetball is real, it’s not all about tricks. It’s about real streetball and playing with your heart. I’ve had a lot of NBA guys come to me and say they thought what we do was fake but after they see us play, they give us props, they love what we do. LeBron was imitating my dunks, so they love what we do just as much as we love what they do.”
Ticket prices for Ball Up Tour games begin at $6 (not including applicable service charges and taxes) and are currently on sale online for each city through Ball Up’s website at ballup.com/tour/ and Eventbrite.