A tribute to Harlem’s own streetball legend Crispy Alimoe aka The Black Widow.
by Joseph Vecsey / @JosephVecsey
As I was driving home Monday night and stopped at a red light, I checked my Facebook news feed and read that Alimoe had passed away. I’m sure my first reaction was similar to most: It couldn’t have been true. I had just spoken to Al on the phone last week.
As soon as I read that, I called his phone. It actually rang like normal, then went to voicemail, and all I heard was him saying “Widow!” That’s been Al’s voicemail greeting since I met him. It made me sad hearing it, and part of me was hoping we would find out this was all false.
I quickly reached out to some mutual friends and people who also knew Al just so we could talk about him, remember him and laugh about how funny he was. I know there are countless others who were closer to him and I encourage you to leave your comments below and share your stories/memories with everyone.
Here are some of my thoughts and memories of Alimoe. The first time I met Alimoe, aka The Black Widow, was in the summer of ninth grade when I played in the Battle of the Boroughs open run at Madison Square Garden. I remember Al being really nice and telling me that the red shirt I was wearing underneath my jersey didn’t go with the uniform and I should wear a white one instead. When you grow up watching someone as a little kid, stuff like that sticks with you.
Al was one of the original AND 1 Mixtape players who I emulated and studied as a kid. I can remember vividly pretending I was Al by imitating his high dribble crossovers and moves during and after high school practices against my teammates. I have practiced Alimoe’s moves in countless gyms. Streetball legend Wally “Main Event” Dixon told me that someone had messaged him saying they were up all night doing Alimoe’s moves when they found the news.
“All around the world, I’ve been getting messages about Alimoe. Even people in Africa, Poland,” Main Event says. It’s amazing how far someone’s talent can travel. I remember showing my friends in Long Island all the AND 1 Tapes he was on, The Rucker DVDs, and watching Streetball on ESPN 2. I always felt there were not enough highlights of Alimoe. I always wanted to see more. Not too many players were able to be that relaxed and nonchalant with their entire game.
“Drinking Ice-T with my shades on, that’s how cool I am when I play,” Alimoe famously said in an AND 1 commercial, and it was the absolute truth. I never could get over how his dribble and style of passing looked in person. He was a legitimate 6-8 ballplayer who dribbled like a guard and passed the ball out of nowhere so effortlessly without even bending down.
His passes would come straight out of his dribble and he’d just release the ball to the open man with his signature two-handed, behind-the-back pass that I never saw anywhere before he did it. I don’t think anyone has or ever will make that pass better than him. He could throw his signature pass 80 different ways, whether it be to a cutter, bounce pass, alley-oop, advancing the ball up court, and any other combination you can think of that you can do as an assist. I remember pulling it off once in an organized game in Staten Island and feeling like I just slept with a super model. That’s how dope imitating an Alimoe pass could make you feel.
“T.E.A.M. is for Tyrone Evans Ali-Moe. He was the best passer I ever saw play the game of basketball. He was a legend. He was a trend setter. Harlem’s finest. He was a great friend. He was also very influential and very inspirational,” says popular and well-respected streetballer Randy “White Chocolate” Gill.
“One of the good dudes in basketball. A real good dude. What you saw is what you got with Al. And one of the baddest cats I ever seen on the court hands down. He was like a little brother to me,” streetball legend Anthony “Half Man Half Amazing” Heyward says.
The most amazing thing about Alimoe is that he was able to do all his flashy moves within the game. Streetball legend Lonnie “Prime Objective” Harrell really felt good when Alimoe told him he liked his game. “He gave me the stamp. Told me Harlem loves me. I was already a fan of his. He was in my top-five streetball players already. I had seen him play before I even touched the floor at Rucker,” Prime Objective says.
Prime Objective was from DC and made quite the impact when he came to Rucker. Prime was pretty surprised to find out that another dude with his height could dribble better than him. Kobe Bryant was Alimoe’s favorite player. He and Prime used to talk about games a lot. Alimoe loved Kobe’s footwork. “Al really had an IQ for the game of basketball,” says Prime.
I was always surprised with Al’s IQ for the game as well. Especially when you see a bunch of highlights of a guy playing a certain way, you don’t know that he really knows the game inside and out. I remember Al even speaking on the AND 1 tapes or shows about defense and recovery, when the defender is vulnerable, how the kids don’t want see me come down and take a pull-up jump shot. Al definitely encouraged playing the game the right way and working out before the tricks. He was someone who clearly had both. I can always remember him saying, “work on your game.” As much as he did the tricks, he definitely wasn’t into all the extreme illegal stuff people would do the court.
He was also a streetball legend before he got officially put down with AND 1. Alimoe was one of the guys who helped make AND 1 a successful streetball brand. If you watch Volume 1, The Battle Tape: Alimoe Vs Skip, and Volume 6, a lot of that footage is just Al playing in Rucker, different tournaments or all-star games. All the moves he was making were being pulled off with real referees and against players trying to win.
“Alimoe was my first intro to Rucker. During the daytime the announcer would be calling him Alimoe, but as it got darker, they would start calling him The Black Widow. And he had like two different types of games. Alimoe was a smooth type of ball player. Rock you side to side. But The Black Widow was more ‘I’m gonna wrap it around your neck, your back.’ More fancy but within the rules of the game, ” says Main Event.
Main had even told me about a game he once played at Rucker where his team not only won, but he got MVP. He was happy but actually felt like giving his trophy to Alimoe because he had so much respect for his game and that this was Al’s world; Harlem world. Main also knew that if Al’s team won, Alimoe would definitely have gone home with MVP. It was quite cool to hear the way Main Event spoke about Alimoe. He really respected Al as a player and a person. Everyone speaks about him in a similar way. It’s one thing for people like myself to look up to him, but it’s not often guys all around the same age (maybe a four- to five-year difference at most) give someone that type of respect on and off the court.
Before the AND 1 tour, Main was taking car service from Jersey into Harlem to play a lot and he saw Al walking on the street and pulled over one morning. He took Al out for breakfast and just kicked it. The history and friendship of Alimoe and Main went way back before the AND 1 tour. It was like that with Al and a lot of the New York ball players who were on the circuit. These guys all knew and respected each other’s games way before any ESPN2 cameras were around.
Brit “Shasee” Grady, who was a good friend and lived in Jersey, fell in love with Alimoe’s game when he first saw him play. Even though Grady was from Jersey and was a straight fan of Main’s, he started to become a huge fan of The Black Widow’s game. Grady would go watch both of them play, but Main could tell that he might have enjoyed watching Alimoe more than him.
“If we both had games at the same time, he might miss my game and go see Alimoe’s,” said Main Event. Streetball legend “Shane The Dribbing Machine” Woney remembers being up by 30 on 145th and being subbed out with the rest of the guys at halftime until a skinny kid who was about 17 or 18 showed up and changed the whole game around in one half. “That’s when I knew this kid Al was gonna be special,” says Shane, remembering the days before he was officially being called Alimoe. “Alimoe always respected the purity of the game of basketball.”