by Ben Osborne
One thing I’d never documented before was the chain of events that unfolded after we ran the excerpt in issue 122 and then the subsequent pieces online. The short version is that Rick’s publisher, Nebraska Press, realized that the book warranted a new printing (its sixth in total, and third from Nebraska).
In the wake of that great news, Rick reached out to me to see if maybe there was a shoe company that would help him celebrate the new release, and all the book stands for. A Heaven shoe? A tee-shirt? A party? All seemed possible; Rick just needed a partner.
SLAM publisher Dennis Page and I talked about Rick’s request and in looking back through Rick’s pictures, there was only one company that made sense: Converse! The most popular shoe on the playgrounds in the Heaven days were Converse Chuck Taylors. Sure, no one thinks of those as basketball shoes any longer, but Chucks are still around, and Converse is still around, quietly carrying around as rich a basketball legacy as any company in the game. Dennis and I hit up are people at Converse and their ad agency, Anomaly, and while it took MANY emails and phone calls, with the determined help of Anomaly’s Stanley Lumax, a connection was made. Converse was down, and Stanley set out to build an event.
Rick and Stanley got amazing photos from Rick’s time in Brooklyn blown up, Stanley lined up Converse’s “Energy Space” in Manhattan’s Lower East Side as the venus and got Bobbito Garcia to host and Rich Medina to spin, and let Rick and I invite all the folks that we thought mattered (Rick handled the Subway Stars, I took care of the extended SLAM family).
The date was set for last night, and Rick set the table beautifully yesterday in a piece for his main employer, the Chicago Sun-Times. There were something like 400+ RSVP’s for a space designed to hold 75, and even if all 400 didn’t show, it was close. And warm. And crowded. But oh so lovely. Fly Williams looking…fly. Albert King. Winston Karim. Ron Naclerio. Tiny Morton. Stefan Fatsis. Jonathan Hock. And many more former playground greats, current coaches and basketball media folks too numerous to mention.
Besides a ton of familiar hand shakes and backslaps, the night took a touching turn when Rick gave a speech about the about the book and the people who made it possible, most notably the late Rodney Parker, felt moved.
I’ll let the beautiful pictures of the event, all taken by Dennis Spruill, tell more of the story of a night I’m thankful to have been a part of.
Want even more? Hit up heavenisaplayground.com.