by Eldon Khorshidi | @eldonadam

In New York City, the conclusion of the NBA season is bittersweet. For hoops-crazed New Yorkers, on one hand the transition into summer is unsettling. The city’s intense, non-stop passion for basketball comes to a screeching standstill; there’s no more bloviating your quick-fix plan for the Knicks, debating your friends and neighbors on whether Carmelo Anthony is suited to lead a Championship team, explaining why all—or none—of New York’s troubles fall on the shoulders of Mike Woodson, and just giving a plus-sized two cents on the overall landscape of the League. In New York, basketball chatter is everywhere, and the game is woven into the city’s fabric. For some fans, the game is a primary outlet for happiness; when there’s no more NBA—no more consistent, competitive basketball—an awkward emptiness begins to permeate the streets.

But in the Mecca of hoops, that emptiness subsides pretty quickly. As summer rolls around and temperatures heat up, playing outdoors gains a whole new appeal. Starting in mid-June, the masses flee their homes and hit the playgrounds to do what they know best: play, watch and revel in the excitement of basketball.

New York is the red carpet of playground basketball. Rappers, actresses and entertainers are a mainstay at high-profile events, coming out to watch, well…you never know who. From Julius Erving, Michael Jordan, Kobe and Durant, to Baron Davis, Brandon Roy, Jamal Crawford, Kemba Walker and Stephon Marbury, to Skip 2 My Lou, Hot Sauce and Escalade, the list of players—who often times show up unannounced—who’ve graced the courts of New York is infinite. Just last week, less than two weeks after his team was eliminated in the Eastern Conference Finals, Indiana Pacers swingman Lance Stephenson took in opening night at Dyckman from the stands, only to put on a uniform at halftime and join the competition.

Show up, get hyped, play ball and put on a show.

All of this is to say, although the NBA season may be coming to a close, New Yorkers are ready for the next wave of basketball. They’re ready for summer streetball.

In New York, respect is both earned and taken away on asphalt. As Al Shep—a lanky, smooth small forward who’s solidified his name in streetball over the years—explained to us last week, “Every day you gotta bring your game. New York City basketball is probably the best there is. There are other leagues that are dope in different cities like the Drew League in L.A. or the junk that they got going on down in DC and whatnot. But it’s very rare that you get New York guys that travel there for those leagues because they’re always here. If you can make it in New York City, then you really can make it anywhere. [The fans] are gonna let you hear it. So really, if you’re gonna step out there at any park or gym, you’re gonna have to bring it or you’re gonna hear about it for a long time.”

Regardless of your age or experience, if you’re good enough to compete in the New York summer circuit, you’ll have a chance to turn heads, improve as a player and make a name for yourself. As the timeless Nike iS8 Tournament slogan still reads: In New York you must “Bring your game, Not your name.”

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This summer, hundreds of ballers will again compete on the playgrounds at all hours of the day, but this time they’ll be doing so under the watchful eye of Nike, as the mega-brand continues to put its stamp on streetball.

Between the six major tournaments—Dyckman, Watson Classic, West 4th Street, Pro City, Hoops In The Sun and Tri State Classic—games will take place daily. For respect and improvements sake, players have always wanted to play well, but this summer there’s an added incentive: the chance to make Team NIKE.

Over the next two months, the streets will be buzzing with games every night, and SLAM will be carefully monitoring every player and tournament. The culmination of everything, however, will take place in Mid-August, when Nike will assemble the 10 best players from the summer to form Team NIKE, an All-Star squad that will compete against the best streetball players in America in the “Tournament of Champions”, one of New York’s most storied basketball events.

In other words, this summer the pressure is on.

To construct the 10-man team, Nike already has its eye on 15 well-known streetball players, most of whom will go against one another in every tournament. The 15 are as follows:

Guards: Kenny “Grown Man Stuff” Satterfield, Adris “2 Hard 2 Guard” DeLeon, Aaron “Problem” Williams, Dave “Super Dave” Seagers, Tu “TuTu” Holloway, Gary Erving, Jeremy “Cabby” Hazell, Jeff “The Bully” McDermott.

Forwards: Al “Shep”, Quinton “T2″ Hosley, Kavon “Happy Feet” Lynch, Kurt “Just Came Home” Williams, Vernon “2K13″ Goodridge, Justin Burrell, Mike Glover.

These guys have advanced consideration, but their spot is not guaranteed. Team NIKE has extended an open invitation to anyone who makes a name for himself this summer. If some up-and-comer is consistently busting ass on the circuit, make no mistake about it: he will make the team at the expense of an established veteran. Every spot is open; now it’s time to see who will show up.

“To make the team, I just gotta be myself” says Satterfield, who, after a brief stint in the NBA in the early 2000’s, has carved out a successful overseas career in addition to being one of the most respected streetballers in New York history. “Whatever park you go to and wherever you’re playing at, people are gonna come at you regardless. If you’re playing with Team NIKE, guys wanna come at you. You’re a part of the same talent they see on TV, so they basically want to prove themselves and build their confidence off of playing well against you. So you do what you do. You dominate them.”

Adds Shep: “You just gotta outwork the others who want that spot. If me and somebody else are fighting for the small forward position or for the 2-guard position, you just have to find a way to outwork that person. This just adds more fuel to the fire because you want to be a part of that 10 at the end of the summer. You don’t take the day off or take a game off anyway, so now this just adds more fuel to go hard throughout the summer.”

SLAM will be traversing the city’s playgrounds to attend numerous games each week, and will consistently keep the community-at-large informed and up to date. At the end of the summer, the streets will know who deserves a spot on Team NIKE and who doesn’t. Most playgrounds’ tournaments are already underway, and once the NBA Championship is decided on Thursday night, it’s time to turn the page.

It’s time for summer streetball.

Tournament Info:

TournamentLocationSchedule
Dyckman ParkWashington Heights, ManhattanM-F
West 4th StreetGreenwich Village, ManhattanM-F
Pro CityBaruch College, ManhattanTuesday, Thursday
Hoops In The SunOrchard Beach, BronxSaturday and Sunday
Tri-State ClassicHarlem, ManhattanM-F
Watson ClassicSouth BronxM-F

Additional reporting by Jay Wallis