by Phillip Barnett / @imsohideous
With 35 seconds left in the Los Angeles Qualifier championship, Sheldon Bailey went to the move he had been using all day at Venice Beach — hard dribble to his right and a spin to the left into lowering the shoulders of his 6’6” frame all the way to the basket. He was down one, so going to his bread and butter made the most sense. However, the move that would get Bailey to the finals would ultimately prove to be his demise as one of the shortest competitors of the event made a huge recovery after Bailey’s initial dribble to get a hand on the ball as Bailey was coming out of his spin.
“Man, I just knew if I kept on banging with him he was going to get the best of me because he had all that size and weight,” said Mark Peters, the King of the Rock Los Angeles qualifier champion. “So I had to take a chance and get a steal, and once I got that steal, the game was mine.”
And the game did belong to Peters after picking Bailey’s pocket. Peters brought the ball out to the left wing, showed off some of the ball handling that made him a crowd favorite early on in the day and blew by Bailey with the quickness that carried him through six grueling one-on-one battles. Peters clutch steal and layup with the less than 30 seconds left to play was only fitting with last year’s King of the Rock champion, Izeah “Clutch” Bowman, on site scouting this year’s competition.
King of the Rock hopefuls lined up several hours before registration began to make sure they secured their spot in the tournament. The weather was beautiful, the stands were packed with hundreds of hoop fans and curious tourists to see the competition. After some lopsided matches in the first couple of rounds, the competition and level of play increased. The display of ball handling, shooting and quickness was spectacular, but guys weren’t only battling each other, they were battling the conditions and fatigue as well.
Tracy Cathey made it to the Final Four against Peters. Cathey was another crowd favorite and was nicknamed “Daddy Day Care” by Mouthpiece, the tournament’s emcee. During everyone of Cathey’s matches, his wife and kids were cheering for him. Cathey hit a 35-foot three pointer at the buzzer of his first game, and quietly dominated until his Final Four match. After all of his victories, he went over and gave his kids a kiss on the forehead. Before his match with Peters, he said that he was doing this “because I need that $10,000 for my family.” He jumped out to an early lead with a barrage of mid-range jumpers and layups, but didn’t have the stamina to beat Peters.
Peters and Bailey were the only two of the 64 competitors at Venice Beach to qualify for the finals on The Yard at Alcatraz Island on September 24. Saturday’s event was the first of what will span across 21 different U.S. cities and 12 international countries. From these qualifiers, 64 men will earn their way onto Alcatraz to play for the coveted “King of the Rock” title and $10,000. For more information on the Red Bull King of the Rock tournament, check out www.redbullusa.com.