by Max Resetar / @m23jumpman911
It’s difficult to categorize Bobbito Garcia. The 46-year-old DJ played pro ball in Puerto Rico, wrote a critically acclaimed book called Where’d You Get Those?, hosted It’s The Shoes, his own ESPN series, and announced the NBA Street Vol. 2 video game. He’s done a lot.
This May, Garcia and co-director Kevin Couliau released the film Doin’ It In The Park, Pick-up Basketball NYC (www.doinitinthepark.com), a love-letter to the culture and community that have made New York City basketball what it is today.
Garcia’s latest basketball foray is a new summer tournament concept. There are no teammates, and no out-of-bounds. Full Court 21 NYC starts on July 30th and runs every Tuesday night until August 27th on W. 76th Street and Riverside Park. It’s breaking new ground and Garcia recently discussed his inspiration behind the idea and what fans can expect.
SLAM: What is Full Court 21 NYC?
Bobbito Garcia: I went to the Boys Club in New York. Manny Maldonado does an open run there and before they ran 5-on-5, to warm up, they were playing full court 21. Now, I’ve been playing 21 half court my whole life, but I had never seen it played up-and-down. And I was blown away. It was so much fun!
I’m always trying to be creative. There are some great 5-on-5 tournaments and some amazing 3-on-3 tournaments. But what can I do that’s completely different? And that’s where I came up with the idea to present 21 in an organized context, which has never been done before, and call it Full Court 21 NYC. It’s about to launch on Tuesday, July 30. There’s a lot of excitement about it.
SLAM: Describe a Tuesday night at the Riverside courts. Is there going to be music? Are you going to be on the mic? What can the crowd expect?
BG: There won’t be any music. There won’t be a mic. There’ll be some hecklers and I’ll do some light announcements. Full Court 21 NYC will be a bunch of people who love basketball and are going to go really hard and have a lot of fun. I’m happy to become a part of the tradition of New York City outdoor tournaments. We invented the idea back in 1946. Mr. Holcombe Rucker started a youth league in Harlem and that was the beginning of organized summer ball.
The draw of Full Court 21 is that it’s a complete different game. It’s every man and woman for themselves. You’ll have multiple defenders guarding whichever player has the ball. That means that every offensive play will be a double-team, triple-team, quadruple-team. You’re going to see people score against six, seven defenders. Every time the ball goes in the hole, that’s going to be tremendous.
SLAM: Did you pick 21 because nobody had ever done it in a tournament format?
BG: Yeah, it’s twofold. I love 21. Kevin Couliau and I featured it in our film (www.doinitinthepark.com). The game’s responsible for New York players’ trademark freak handles. You’ve got big men and small guys who develop the ability to dribble through two, three people on a constant level. Aside from me loving to play 21 and being a fan of watching it, I just wanted to do something different.
SLAM: What does Full Court 21 NYC offer that the Rucker or West 4th or even Barry Farms in DC doesn’t?
BG: Props to all the other tournaments out there. We’re going to offer a complete different perspective on the game, though. There’s no out-of-bounds, there’s no fouls. It’s open to competitive men and women to be on court at the same time. You’re just going to see some phenomenal basketball played in a very different context that people are not used to.
SLAM: You’ve been a creative pioneer for a long time on the front lines of sneaker, music and basketball culture. Has this idea of doing something completely different been brewing in your mind for a while?
BG: I grew up in the Goat Park and Earl Manigault, the legend, would be at the playground every single day and he had a tournament. So growing up, I thought, “It’d be kind of cool to have a tournament in my name one day.” It’s been brewing in my head for at least twenty years. But for years I would have rather played than organized. I’ve been doing open runs for the last six or seven years in different parks so I think the success of my open runs kind of made me think, “Wow, I have a following of ballplayers that are dedicated to the sport and are fun to play with.” And now I’m 46, and I’m still playing, but I kind of want to provide.
I meet all these guys and women who all say, “I want to come to New York and play at West 4th, the EBC at Rucker Park, Dyckman.” More than likely, though, they’re not 6’8”. If they show up to the park, they can’t just sign up to play. Teams that play in summer tournaments don’t have tryouts. It’s all a network. What I wanted to do was fill that void. Any competitive player can sign up for my tournament the day of or pre-register online and it kind of leaves it open to play. The other thing is in 21, you don’t have to pass to anybody. Just shoot! It’s going to be a lot of fun. My tournament is inclusive, not exclusive…
SLAM: Can we expect known players like Jack Ryan or Niki Avery?
BG: Jack Ryan and Corey ‘Homicide’ Williams will each take the honorary first shots on Tuesday, July 30th. As far as the coed players, there are no legends or All-Americans that have signed up yet. There might be, who knows who shows up, right? It’s also the first year of the tournament. Maybe two or three years from now we’ll wind up attracting players who want to do something different outside of 5-on-5.
SLAM: The last thing that everybody wants to know is when you’re going to suit up?
BG: [Laughs] Nah, I’ll be on the sidelines heckling and making sure everything goes well. I want to shout-out Shirts & Skins who did a great job with the uniforms, and shout out to SLAM, of course, who always reps everything I do. Go to fullcourt21nyc.com to check everything out!