Did It Before
Reebok and EBC did it big for the first Throwback Thursday event of the season.
by Ryan Wallerson / @RCWallerson
Rucker Park has always been synonymous with New York City street basketball. This summer, the marriage between Entertainers Basketball Classic and Reebok have stepped Rucker’s game up in a major way. The recently renovated court serves as a perfect setting for Reebok’s sponsored teams to ball up and impress the Harlem crowd. And exactly a week ago, during the inaugural Reebok Classic Throwback Thursday, that’s exactly how it went down.
The bleachers were packed for the first game between DC Power and R2K, teams highlighted by notable streetballers like Future and White Chocolate. The funky commentating by Pete Rock and CL Smooth, extremely physical play, and street ball style alley-oop slams got the Rucker crowd buzzing like it always has. By the end of the first game, spectators were already sucked into the experience, but EBC and Reebok were excited to go way bigger than your typical five-on-five games. Teasing the crowd with the promise of something live throughout the first contest, Throwback Thursday didn’t disappoint, hosting the first Slam Dunk contest of the season between two high-caliber Reebok dunk artists and one very special guest appearance.
The flavor of the night was the return of a classic sneaker, Dee Brown’s original Reebok Pumps. They were all over the court—the players, DJs, dunk contest participants were all rocking the Pumps like it was 1991. D Rock and Anthony “Africa” Pimple, had the skills to put on a show all by themselves, but for good measure, Rucker brought the ‘91 NBA Slam Dunk contest champ on to the court to lead the proceedings.
“To be one of the first people to do it, speaking about the Pumps, it’s very cool to see the guys out here still pumping their shoes up 20 years later,” Brown said. “When I did what I did back in ’91, it kind of changed the shoe game. I had my pumps, other players had their brands. We started a little bit of a shoe war after that. Today, when people think of the pump, they still think of Dee Brown, and I’m proud of that. I’m proud to be a small part of history. You may get old, but everything good that’s old comes back new, so that’s good to see. In fact, you could say that same about Rucker Park.”
Not only did Africa win the Dunk contest using Brown as a prop, jumping over him on his way to the dunk (Dee covered his eyes like he did to win the contest in ’91), but Brown himself delighted the Rucker crowd, grabbing a ball and attempting a few trick shot dunks of his own. Dee Brown, 45 and wearing jeans, has definitely still got it. He did put a couple down properly.
“I’m just really happy and blessed to be here, to see all of this. Rucker has been and will always be Rucker,” Brown said. “But what they’ve done here is really something special. The environment now is what it’s been for the past 25, 30 years. It’s pure basketball—it’s crazy and fun times always. It’s great that Reebok is so committed to doing things here, elevating EBC, Rucker Park and Harlem in general, really.
“To have Pete Rock and CL Smooth here as Rucker’s voice is amazing,” Brown continued. “Those are guys I grew up listening to in high school and college. The fans are really excited. This Throwback Thursday, the first of many, is really something else.”
After the contest, there was time for the crowd to come off of the bleachers and check the court out for themselves before the primetime game between Team 914 and Taylor Made. New York Knick and reigning Sixth Man of the Year JR Smith took the opportunity to greet Rucker, and his presence put the cherry of top of an atmosphere that had a lot of people forgetting that there was a NBA Finals Game 7 about to be played in South Beach. He even told the crowd he’d be back to suit up and hit the floor later in the summer, so definitely watch out for that.
The primetime game began just before 9 o’clock, and the bleachers were packed even tighter for the second game than for the first. Suffice to say Reebok and EBC’s collaboration, as well as the first of many Throwback Thursday events to come this summer, has been a resounding success. And Rucker Park is better off for it. It’s not just Thursdays, though. The games and events like the dunk contest are going to be happening on a daily basis.
Get yourself over to Rucker Park. It’s a summer-long streetball festival, and the world is invited.