by Emry DowningHall

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Saturday’s AND1 “United Streets of America” takeover of the Liacouras Center.

Like most basketball fans, I’ve felt a separation from AND1 over recent years, as the tour and the brand seems to have taken a few steps backward, at least in the national exposure department.

That said, I still enjoy the product and applaud any outlet that allows talented young ball players a chance to earn a living fulfilling hoop dreams that, in many cases couldn’t be realized otherwise.

While today’s AND1 is a far cry from the spontaneity and style – as well as true streetball legends – that made AND1 Mixtape V. 1 a classic, what’s left is a group of talented guys who really know how to put on a show.

Before I get into the game notes, I have to commend the AND1 crew for making the tour $10 general admission. This price really allows the youngsters and the families to come out and enjoy themselves, and that was very evident on Saturday.

One of the first things I noticed about the game was how much the kids look up to these guys. There’s no question that the talent level between an NBA player and an AND1 player is almost immeasurable, but the same can be said about a kids experience at an AND1 game vs. a NBA game.

AND1 does a fantastic job of putting their guys within reach of the kids. The players made a clear, conscious effort of signing autographs before and after the game, shaking hands with the crowd, and just interacting in general.

The bottom line is, I’m definitely more of a basketball purist who prefers pick and pop to shake moves and isolations. I can totally understand how this style of play makes some people cringe, but the truth is, AND1 is excellent entertainment and great for basketball, although I do think a “Don’t try this on your high school team” disclaimer is still warranted.

Pre-Game:

The NBA has begun pushing the media further and further away from the court. AND1 isn’t following suit and they’ve got me courtside at the scorers table. These are better seats then I can swing for Temple games.

Duke Tango has the hard to please Philadelphia crowd hyped as he fires autographed miniature AND1 balls into the stands. He even gets me into the act at one point. It’s truly amazing how insane kids will go for a plastic mini-ball.

The game is being played at the Liacouras Center, which is home of the Temple Owls. Everyone in attendance is fortunate John Chaney didn’t catch wind of the AND1 takeover of his signature court, or else we would all be running suicides for the rest of the evening.

The Philadelphia team is featuring Temple legend Lynn Greer – Formerly of the Milwaukee Bucks and currently with Olympiakos – who’s used to lighting up this arena from his days wearing the Cherry and White – He’s going to be a problem.

North Philadelphia is definitely in the building, with an appearance by an original member of the AND1 squad AO, and “The Problem Child”.

Greer is the most talented player suited up by a wide-margin, and between himself and AO – who should be motivated being back on a court with AND1 – I’m predicting the Philadelphia squad will take this game.

1st Half:

Professor goes at Greer right away. He hits him with an in an out cross, and a hands up but can’t shake the pro who takes his cookies the second time the ball is exposed. This could be a long 40 minutes for The Professor.

After beating his man with a hesitation dribble, The Bad One has his finger-roll attempt smashed against the glass on a super blatant goaltend. When the referee ignores the infraction and swallows his whistle, AND1 coach Mike Ellis goes insane and the two engage in a heated discussion about whether or not goaltending should be called in streetball. I found the whole chain of events a bit confusing; I didn’t realize coaches lobbied for calls in this format.

Helicopter, who is normally depicted as strictly a high riser in the ESPN series, knocks down back to back three balls with a decent looking jumper.

AO looked to be carrying some rust on him early, and was stripped the first two times he made a move to the basket. He got things going while matched up against Silk, shaking him for a hoop, plus the foul.

Lynn Greer, who has been tagged “G-Money”, just hit his fourth three of the first half and is showing how effective the triple threat position can be when you have a lights out step back jumper.

Greer is replaced in the lineup by another North Philadelphia native, “The Problem Child” who quickly knocks down a three of his own. Philly is on top 31 to 24 at the 10.45 mark.

The first real bunnies of the game are shown by Springz who brings out the Lebron-style extended flush, and then follows that up with an extra flashy left handed windmill banger. That man can fly, even for AND1 standards.

With the Philadelphia squads starters resting, the AND1 team goes on a run and ties the game at 37-37 with 7.33 left in the first half.

I realize a lot of these shake moves are over hyped, but Silk of the AND1 squad just truly caught his man leaning and nearly busted ankles. Without hesitation he caught the ball on the right elbow extended. He jab stepped left, and then faked a hard dribble in the same direction, his defender leaned to cover the pass, but Silk had held onto the ball. He then tossed the ball behind his mans back, and left him frozen while his defender almost fell over. The crowd loves it.

After the Philadelphia team had brought their starters back into the game, Silk goes at Greer and hits him with a cross and then puts him all on Facebook with a deep three.

After Go Get It’s T-Mac style two handed bang off the glass, the AND1 squad is up 13, and we’re headed to the half.

Halftime:

I certainly wasn’t expecting too riveting of a halftime show, so when Philadelphia Freeway and Skillz came out and performed “Don’t Act Like You Don’t Know” as well as Free’s verse from “What We Do” I definitely had to give it up. There may be some Philly bias dripping out of your monitor right now, but I’ve felt Free ever since I first heard him on “1-900-HUSTLER”, and I’m pretty sure we can all agree “What We Do” is a classic.

2nd Half:

Greer comes out dropping deep three balls on The Professor who’s really digging in, but having a hard time staying in front of him.

Professor gets a couple of chances to get back at Greer, and is actually able to penetrate pretty effectively but is not able to finish.

Greer drops two more threes from super deep and is clearly feeling it right now. I really can’t knock the defensive efforts of The Professor, he’s getting his hands up on all the shots, Lynn is on another level and can really do whatever he wants out there.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Lynn, his step back game is out of this world, and although he’s not the type of guy you’d expect a lot of highlights from, he’s one of the best scorers I have ever seen, period.

After calling a timeout to re-group his squad, Mike Ellis switches Baby Shack onto Greer. AND1’s lead has been cut to one, 56-55.

The switch proves effective as Baby Shack takes Greer in the post on back to back possessions. He’s also able to cool him down from deep, and AND1 begins to pull away.

The crowd bounces to their feet as Springz has another clear path to the hoop. This time he attempts to go between his legs but bricks it off the back of the rim. As far as impressive missed dunks go, that was right up there.

AND1’s experience as a unit pays off and they’re able to keep their distance from the Philadelphia squad. The final score is AND1 88, Philadelphia 72.

Final Thoughts:

As much as I didn’t know what to expect going in, I came out thoroughly entertained. The players on the court cared about the game, and seemed genuinely interested in providing a good show for the crowd.

For $10 a seat, I don’t think there’s a much better deal out there. Truthfully, I don’t think I could walk away with a hot dog and a soda for $10 at the Wachovia Center.

So the next time AND1 rolls through your city, get your Aaron Burr on and drop a Hamilton on the tour.