Thursday, February 28th, 2013 at 1:34 pm  |  39 responses

Remember Alimoe

A tribute to Harlem’s own streetball legend Crispy Alimoe aka The Black Widow.

I got the chance to write an in-depth article on Al about three years ago for SLAM. I kept in touch with Al throughout the years, whether it was hooping on the court with him or catching one of his games uptown. I had a great time interviewing him for the article. He gave the most honest answers I think I’ve ever heard, and we also laughed a great deal.

Anyone who watched Al on TV or knew him in person knew how funny he was. He wasn’t just, “Hey, I’m the dude on the corner with all my friends funny,” either. I do stand up comedy now and Al was a hilarious guy. Everyone I talked to can certainly vouch for that. I don’t back down from too many verbal challenges but if we were around other people, I wouldn’t spar with Al.

There are some examples of what Al is like when he gets into the mode on DVDs. In fact, after the article was finished, Al came all the way downtown with me, got in a train to Long Island City and watched me do stand up for at an open mic at a place called The Creek And The Cave. It was only my second time getting on stage and here’s Alimoe who’s not the easiest person to make laugh watching me. It felt good to have the support.

It was also hilarious for me to watch what he thought was funny and what he didn’t find funny. He might have laughed and smiled equally at both. It was quite the setting. Here are all these nerdy tight jean-wearing comics with their notebooks trying out material, and here I come in with baggy clothes, some notes on paper, and a s6-8 black dude wearing a sweat suit.

That particular crowd probably thought we were there to rob the place. But the night went well, and Al enjoyed himself even with my material being as bad as it was (looking back at it now). I remember trying out a joke on him and he laughed, so then I did it on stage that night. I’m actually really happy that Al was one of the first guys to watch me do comedy.

I told him that he should go into acting. He was a natural. When you see him in those commercials, it’s really impressive for someone who doesn’t come from any type of acting or artistic background. I said to him, “Nobody is gonna look like you that shows up for an audition. You’re funny, you can be yourself, and you are 6-8. How many really funny 6-8 dudes are walking into audition for anything?”

He would have stuck out and been different from everyone else. I really wish I could have convinced him to do that. I knew for sure if one day I could green light movies like Adam Sandler, I would throw Al in a movie.

I even thought about asking to be in one of my sketches. I actually sent Al the sketch he could have been in last week and when we spoke on the phone, he said in a funny way, “Man, I turned it on, went to get my food, and when I came back I saw you doing something real gay on the screen so I turned it off and deleted it off my page.”

I said, “Al, it’s a joke.”

“Well, I don’t do jokes like that,” Al jokingly but seriously said.

He then told me to send it to him again. I completely forgot.

Before I sent him that sketch, I actually had not spoken to Al in a little while. I would call every now and then to see how he was doing. I always knew he could make me laugh or give me some material. When I asked what he was up to, he replied, “The same thing I was up to last time you spoke to me, man.” Al actually said he was taking better care of himself, which I was happy to hear. He was playing ball, and getting his shots up. We even had scheduled a one-on-one for the near future that I was looking forward to. White Chocolate told me that him and Al would play one-on-one at 3 a.m. sometimes.

I’m really going to miss not being able to hear Al speak, see him smile, or get to just play basketball with him. He was someone I enjoyed playing defense on because I became fan during it. “He was born to ball. He made other people smile. If you met Alimoe once, you’d never forget him. He really made an impression on people,” said Stratos Costalas, a good friend of Alimoe’s.

Al was definitely someone who was very encouraging positive with people in general and kids. At times, Constalas tried to get Alimoe placed overseas and anywhere he could. But any time Stratos would bring in a guy from Greece, Turkey or wherever, Alimoe would graciously work the guy out.

“It didn’t matter if the kid was a top college prospect, potential overseas player, or just an ordinary kid from somewhere, Al would work him out. Run him through drills, give him tips, pointers, play two-on-two with them. The kids loved him,” Stratos said.

When Al wasn’t taking care of himself properly years ago, Stratos (also a diabetic like Al) would be giving him extra insulin. Recently, Stratos was struggling with his medical coverage that had ran out, and actually needed help because insulin, along with other medical supplies, were getting too expensive. Of course, Alimoe who had the type of insurance plan where he was getting taken care of, returned the favor and was helping Stratos out.

“I was always there for him. And he was there for me too. I don’t know what it was but we trusted each other,” Stratos says. Al was definitely the type of guy who would welcome you with open arms even if he ragged on you.

When I got the chance to play on the same team as him during a crash the court at the Gun Hill Road years ago, we rode the bus together from a hotel in midtown with some of the rest of the players. I was in 10th grade and nervous as ever. First thing he said to me was, “I hope you can ball now. Don’t live off your father’s name,” Alimoe said to me. I was just happy that he acknowledged me, as some of the other guys didn’t pay too much attention to me. But me made me feel more comfortable and I liked his attitude. You knew that if he liked your game, he wasn’t just saying that.

I can even remember playing one-on-one with Alimoe during halftime up at SUNY Purchase three years ago, and I was hitting some jump shots right in his face. I remember him smiling in surprise while checking the ball back to me to D up again. Of course when he got the ball, I was at his mercy and he would toy with me as he did everyone else.

I always stayed joking with him about that day how I was going to be beat him in a game of one-on-one to 11. He told me he was going to play the type of defense where I wasn’t going to be able to score at all. My preparation for that battle was probably going to be not showing up at all that way I couldn’t lose. From just playing around with Al that day during halftime and getting to play with him on the same team made me so much more confident when I would go play local pickup games at my gym.

When I met Al uptown, or any time I was thinking about going up to Harlem he would tell me, “Yo, if you come up here, you good.” When I left Harlem, he even wanted me to call him when I went back downtown so he knew I was alright.

According to Ball Up Streetball player and former AND 1 Star Grayson “The Professor” Boucher, he really liked hanging out with Al during his first couple of years on tour because Al encouraged him to workout more, stay focused, how to stay in shape, and would pass down wisdom. “Al was one of the few guys who wasn’t always trying to hang out,” Professor said. Al was the type of dude who would bring you around Harlem, and introduce you to people. Very early on, he even brought The Professor around his hood. “He really exposed me to the culture. I thought that was real cool of him as he didn’t have to extend such a welcoming hand toward me. I loved his game and he inspired me early in my streetball career…his legacy will live on in the streetball/basketball world as well as his unforgettable personality,” Professor says.

He never made the League, but NBA players knew who he was. Rappers put him in songs and he had the respect of anyone who knew basketball period. “A lot of great things happened to him in a short time. Alimoe and Rafer Alston became what Pee Wee Kirkland and Joe Hammond were back in the day. Even though Rafer made it to the NBA, I put him on the same pedestal. He made a mark in basketball. When you say ‘The Goat,’ everyone knows you are talking about Earl Manigault. Same with ‘The Black Widow,’” says Hall of Famer Peter Vecsey who also spoke on Alimoe’s Battle Tape Vs Skip.

Al definitely is missed by everyone he played against, played with, or knew off the court in any type of way. A phrase Main Event told me Al used to say a lot jokingly before a game started was, “Ain’t got paid yet.” Sometimes in streetball, promoters can be funny with money or maybe you wouldn’t get all of it, so Al would say that before tip off or right before the game started. He would even say that before AND 1 games when he was on contract or games where it was clear he was going to get paid.

During one of the first times in a limo, Alimoe made quite the scene out of it. Him and Shane Woney were being dropped off in the limo. As Shane was dropping off Alimoe in the limo in Harlem, Al was like, “We gotta go up every block in Harlem. I owe it everybody that said I was gonna make it so they see me in this limo,” said Alimoe. Shane and Alimoe rode from 137th street to 151st street up and down the blocks while Al stood up in the limo yelling, “look at me,” and embraced the moment.

Shane, along with White Chocolate and Half Man, just had a game with Al this past weekend in New Hampshire. They say he looked pretty good. Shane was at least grateful that he got to spend over 10 hours talking to Al back and forth in the car from the game.

I’m a fan of so many moments of Alimoe whether it be the time him and Troy “Escalade” Jackson played one-on-one or when him and Robert “50” Martin played one-on-one in Atlanta. I’m sure if we dig up unused footage of Al during his days on the tour, there would be enough for his own reality show.

Even though Al maybe could have made it further in basketball, he was all about encouraging others to not make the same mistakes he did. He was also a man of principles. “Winning isn’t everything. How you win is everything,” Alimoe would say. As true fans of Alimoe, we will always envision what it would have been like if he played in the NBA or overseas, or even stuck around AND 1 longer than he did. But either way, it seems like Al did exactly what he wanted to do. He enjoyed playing ball in places he felt like, living in Harlem, and encouraging younger players and kids. A line from rapper Machine Gun Kelly makes me think of Alimoe when he spits, “I been a pro, I just dodged the League.” Alimoe was definitely a pro who showed he had the skills without being in organized leagues overseas or the NBA.

His favorite NBA basketball player, Kobe Bryant, sent his signed sneakers to Alimoe for Al to have forever. I know Alimoe is not only going to be smiling wide in Heaven when his family receives them for him to have, but he’s also going to be doing some bragging. I can see him now saying, “Y’all better do some reading around here…the Black Mamba is a fan of The Black Widow.”

These days, the word “legend” is thrown around way too much. There’s a certain criteria that goes with becoming any type of legend. You need to be original in some way, have a large body of work, and do it for an extended period of time. I’m privileged to say that I got play with and got to know the authentic and certified Harlem’s own streetball legend Crispy Alimoe aka The Black Widow.

Funeral Services (UPDATE): Due to the expected overwhelming turnout, services (which will be held on Tuesday, March 5) have been moved to the United House of Prayer, 2320 Frederick Douglass Blvd (8 Ave) @ W. 124th Street NY, NY 10027. If you need further info or Instructions do not hesitate to contact Unity Funeral Chapels 2352 8th Avenue New York, NY 10027 212-666-8300. If needed also you can contact Fort Washington Florist 212-795-2978 for floral arrangements.

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  • shutup

    Amazing write up, powerful piece. R.I.P.

  • TL

    That’s powerful man… Great job telling us about the guy. Rest in peace.

  • speedy

    R.I.P. Great person, great player.

    Idealized and copied his game.

  • http://www.rich-imaging.com/ Dutch Rich

    RIP Alimoe. Beautiful tribute. Thank you Joseph!

  • speedy

    Thanks for the great story telling.

  • JBuckets44

    Besides MJ…my favorite basketball player…HANDS DOWN…R.I.P…..great article

  • DannyAingesBarber

    RIP Alimoe. I was a big fan of him back in the mixtape days. Great to get some insight to what he was really like as a person. Excellent tribute.

  • bike

    Anyone got a link to a bio on Alimoe? Can’t seem to find one anywhere.

  • http://slamonline.com/ Ben Osborne

    Thank you Joseph. Thoughts to Alimoe’s family.

  • http://twitter.com/_DFrance DFrance

    That’s the one thing that always amazed me about Alimoe, not only did he have the ball on a string, but he was 6’8 and barely bent his knees. He would make most of his moves standing upright and shorter guards could never take the rock from him. RIP

  • http://www.facebook.com/daniel.welsh1979 Daniel Welsh

    Nice article for the “Ultimate” nice brother. On and off the court. Never forgotten. T.E.A.M.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Really really great Joseph. RIP Alimoe.

  • http://SLAMonline.com/ Ryne Nelson

    Co-sign. Well done Joseph, and R.I.P. Al.


    R.I.P. Bro

  • Comment_System

    Gonna miss playing with him @ Riverbank

  • jaycee

    LEGEND. I was in Harlem late last year (my first time coming from AUS) for a bball tour and you really feel the spirit of guys like Alimoe up there. Every block, every court. NYC really is the spiritual home of basketball.

    On the health tip, if it was/is the diabetes, please take the lesson, get off all that soda, white sugar, fake sugar and corn by-products. All DIRECTLY linked to diabetes and a whole range of other health issues.

    One Love Alimoe you touched those who knew you and even more who didnt.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Donte-Machiavelli-Hudson/100000723951750 Donte Machiavelli Hudson

    R.i.p. Alimoe – one of my idols, straight up

  • nychoops

    well done Joseph! Al would appreciate the LOVE.

  • https://twitter.com/Wayne__o BuenoWayno1

    All over nyc people have a alimoe story, teachers,ballplayers, young and old….rip alimoe

  • Marco

    Great piece no Alimoe on picture #4 though

  • Timothy “storm” Coleman

    We want to thank you Brother Alimoe for the things you have done and the world you have opened up. R.I.P my Man and brother……..Timothy”Storm” Coleman……..Sullivan Community College………We remember the great fun times

  • Brandan E

    damn man, im gonnamiss this dude. he was the only and 1 dude down to earth and a really funny dude.
    but his game spoke volumes, i saw early on that this dude coulda played in the L and been nice for a number of years.

    its saddens me that he’s no longer here, please people if u havent seen this dude play please watch and 1 vol. 1 & vol. 6
    im gonna miss u alimoe!

  • Melodie Dominguez

    I remember the very first time I meet Alimoe it was in high school Julia Richmond and we both had gym class together and it happened to be basketball he was the funniest and the most helpful and I say helpful because without him I would have never passed gym he pushed me he taught me the drills how to palm a basketball and dribble he can tell that basketball was his passion and his love for the game was pure. Without him I would have never passed my basketball gym class… To hear about his passing truly broke my heart and I will forever be greatful for the time that he put in just to make sure I understood the game and his love for basketball he will truly be missed

  • O’Neal Richards

    Met Alimoe in 2001 Summer through my Cousin. He taught me so much about ball, Countless hours in the summer at Baby Rucker park then indoors at Abyssinian Gym. So many Jokes when I was around him. It’s just Sad that Saturday morning I pass by Abyssinian Gym and realized its now only a Day care center and said man I haven’t See Al in about 2 summers I gotta link up with him to get back in the zone for the summer on the court, then I get this news on Monday across my Twitter and I’m just in shock still.. Going to a candle light Vigil is so Unrealistic to me, I can’t hear myself saying I ” used to know Alimoe” or ” RIP Alimoe” I called him Black but Crispy Alimoe was the jokes daily. Real Fun loving down to Earth dude and to me The Best Street baller I’ve Ever Met! Sleep in peace my G!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Chuck-Schick/100002008824265 Chuck Schick

    rip crackhead

  • Drejax

    R.I.P Alimoe….beautifully written Joseph…..givin the legend his proper respect and accolades.

  • 125th-140th all day

    If u not from NYC u could never truly understand.

  • http://twitter.com/rubthemtogether Jennifer Lopez


  • larrylegend

    R.I.P. Will be remembered by everyone who ever saw him play. Unique person.

  • http://slamonline.com/ Ben Osborne

    Didn’t say he was but agreed that was sloppy. We took it down, thanks.

  • http://twitter.com/niQknacks niQ

    RIP Alimoe, will always remember you from the And1 Mixtapes. Thanks for the tribute Joseph.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1703497467 Bridgit Mitchell

    What a great article. There are people who knew Al and people who think they knew him. He was complex but quite amusing. His straight-forwardness changed my life forever. It will take a long time for me to accept that my best-friend have passed on.

  • Mars

    RIP Alimoe. Helped shaped this generation of ballers that now run the league. Respect.

  • T-man

    R.I.P. Alimoe! I will be watching the EBC DVD tonight!

  • Mike

    you suck like your old man joe

  • Teddy AKA Father Time

    I met al in Harlem picking him up for a basketball game.driving down to Virginia my kids loved him we had a great time.talking to my son about the game.and ever since then we remain friends.playing ball at the Woodbridge Y.with main event and others.Al would come over stay weekends and say he loves jersey.we laugh and I would say just your way of slowing down for a couple of days.I am going to miss you you my friend thanks for be a good friend and inspiration to my boys.
    Don’t cross ova god.he will catch you too

  • http://www.facebook.com/JosephVecsey Joseph Vecsey

    Thank you, Ryne and Dutch. Glad the article came out looking right for Al.

  • T Bone

    Such sad news. Alimoe was a real legend. i remember back in the day when you could first create players on the nba live games, i created all the and1 crew and you just couldnt put a weakness in Alimoe’s game. i used to love the fact that it was serious to him – he didnt just mess around, he wanted to be (and wanted others to be) a complete basketball player, not just the flashy stuff, but well grounded in the fundamentals. its a real shame he never got/took his chance to make it to the nba.

  • http://slamonline.com/ Ben Osborne

    Just updated post with this info: Funeral Services (UPDATE): Due to the expected overwhelming turnout, services (which will be held on Tuesday, March 5) have been moved to the United House of Prayer, 2320 Frederick Douglass Blvd (8 Ave) @ W. 124th Street NY, NY 10027.
    If you need further info or Instructions do not hesitate to contact
    Unity Funeral Chapels 2352 8th Avenue New York, NY 10027 212-666-8300.
    If needed also you can contact Fort Washington Florist 212-795-2978 for
    floral arrangements.