With the development of social media, we have the opportunity to see many new, unusual sports. Streetball appeared in the distant 50s and was nothing more than just a hobby, entertainment for those who could not or did not want to get into big sports. And now we are witnessing the times when FIBA included streetball in the Olympic programs. Not bad, right? But what made streetball so popular and important to us? Of course, its players. And there are many stories about them, about how cool they are, and that any athlete can envy them.
Today we can watch almost any game broadcast on TV and the Internet, find out which rumors about streetball are true and which are not. Indeed, many streetball players have become great stars of world professional basketball. What made them true professionals, what were the difficulties and how they went, we will find out today in our selection of the 25 best streetball players in history.
1. Joe Hammond
One of the most extraordinary personalities in the streetball world.
Joe was completely passionate about basketball and having considered that school only bothers him, he decided to quit it without showing off in front of the college team because it happened in the 9th grade.
However, this did not stop him from building a sports career and even playing in the Los Angeles Lakers as a defender.
And he began his sports career, like many others, with games in Rucker Park. Where he earned his nickname "The Destroyer", literally destroying his rivals. Having left only half a game, he was able to earn 50 points, and then, in one game, he also set a record of 82 points. Contracts and fame quickly came to him, but they also left quickly.
Unfortunately, despite his talent, it is difficult to call his fate a good example. 11 years of arrest changed his life forever. Joe forgot that sports and drugs are incompatible and ruined his career after being caught by the police for distributing drugs. So his success, talent, and career came to an end.
2. Earl Manigault
Earl's life and career are unique and challenging at the same time. Born in New York, Earl became famous for his basketball skills while still in high school. However, his teammates had a rather bad influence on him, and very soon he had to change school because due to drug use, he was expelled. Many players called him the best, after several games against him, for which he was called “The Goat”. Long goals, high jumps, technique, and a lot of training made him truly "the greatest of all times", at least in New York. Often he participated in various disputes in which he won money. However, a lot of what is said about him may be a myth, given that he has never played in a major sport. One way or another, he was famous, starred in documentaries and news. Unfortunately, his addiction to drugs did not allow him to reach high peaks in sports. The addiction periodically made itself felt. So he was repeatedly caught by the police and served time in prison not only for drugs but also for robberies. "The Goat" even had to leave Harlem, hoping to escape the addiction and bad influence of friends and the city. But when he returned, he began to play and organize tournaments promoting a healthy lifestyle, showing everyone his bad example and experience. He was actively involved in charity work, which was not related to money because he did not have it. He did the best he could, earning money wherever they were paid.
Despite all the difficulties, he was nevertheless an excellent streetball player, until serious health problems began. He was a frequent patient in hospitals due to heart problems, but once they could not help him. So he immortalized himself as “The Goat" of streetball in New York.
3. Rick Kirkland
Another interesting streetball person. A lot of practice, training, made him one of the best players, not only in Rucker Park. His performance was also noticed in the NBA, where he could well enter the top lists of the best players. But, as often happened, his life was associated with crime. He decided that he would achieve more success in the drug trade and crime than playing for the famous Chicago Bulls, for example. But crime only brought him to prison, where he also demonstrated his talent by playing streetball in “tournaments” for prisoners. But many years in prison influenced him. He decided to take up coaching and achieved success in one of the local schools. Pee Wee (as he was called in New York), using his authority and past, began to hold various meetings for the younger generation, talking about the problems they may face and how not to choose the wrong path. Kirkland appeared in the media several times, and many rap tracks have been recorded about him as one of the legends of Brooklyn.
4. Julius Erving
Certainly, a great basketball player who is known as Dr. J, just couldn't be missed on our list. The legendary, professional gamer, like many others, began to gather crowds at Rucker Park in New York. People admired the game of the future champion, trying to get as close to him as possible. Erving has become a basketball icon and legend, having a huge impact on the development of both the ABA and the NBA. Fans loved his technique, as well as the famous slams that have become almost a symbol of his career, inspiring all basketball fans around the world. Numerous awards, contracts worth millions of dollars, a celebrity, all this came to him deservedly, because his contribution to the development of professional basketball and the motivation of youth cannot be overestimated.
5. Connie Hawkins
The talented Brooklyn player began his career as a teenager, playing in Rucker Park against many experienced basketball players of the time. Despite the great competition, he became one of the best attackers against the background of other players. For his long jumps and surname, he received the nickname “The Hawk”.
Unfortunately, his career crossed paths with the match-fixing scandal. Because of this, his NBA career began much later. The Hawk had to play for ABA (American Basketball Association) to stay in shape. However, since he proved his innocence, the NBA paid him compensation and allowed him to play. After that, Connie earned many awards, and even injuries did not prevent him from doing so. Atlanta Hawks was his last club before retiring.
6. James Williams
James, also known as Fly, got his start in the sport as a baseball player. However, due to his great height, the trainers advised him to abandon this idea. And James chose basketball.
Born in New York, James had the opportunity to play with famous streetball players such as Earl "The Goat", earning a reputation for himself. And so it happened, soon he was offered contracts by several clubs playing in the American Basketball Association. However, despite his previous successes, at ABA, James showed himself more as a showman than an effective player, and after ABA merged with the NBA, interest in him disappeared. Here Fly's sporting path began to end. Having received a firearm earlier, Fly was no longer able to play professional sports, and later completely got involved with heroin and was arrested. As many began to talk about him: "You fly fast, you fall quickly."
7. Raymond Lewis
Raymond's fate was not the best. While in college in California, he received many invitations to play on several college teams. He was able to buy himself a sports car and had a good salary. However, unlike many streetball players, he never made it to the NBA or ABA.
Even though many coaches called him one of the best, professional teams were not interested in him. Due to a failed career, Raymond began to suffer from alcoholism, which drove him to his grave.
8. Ed Smith
Better known on the streets of Brooklyn as Booger, Ed, despite a difficult childhood, was able to earn fame as an outstanding streetball player. Even taking into account the fact that he could not get into professional sports. He was famous for his excellent passes, effective play, and confident dribbling. He even managed to star in a streetball documentary.
However, like many other players of that time, he got involved with drugs, for which he was imprisoned for 4 years. His professional career never started, but he has still been coaching the younger generation, hoping that they will be able to do what he did not achieve.
9. Demetrius Mitchell
He grew up in a poor family, and since childhood spent a lot of time in criminal circles. In his early years, he showed excellent play in local tournaments in California. Friends called him “Hook”. He loved to show off his slams and stunts during streetball games, but unlike some of his teammates, he never made it to the NBA. Many associated this with his character and criminal environment. It was because of this that he took part in robberies and was arrested for a long time. Although the career of a successful player did not work out, Hook was able to become a youth coach.
10. Earl Monroe
Also known as "The Pearl", he was born in Philadelphia and was interested in football from an early age. But later basketball conquered him and since then Earl was inseparable from the basketball. A lot of training allowed him to earn 40 points per game at the dawn of his career. Pearl loved to come up with new styles of playing and different techniques. All this led him to the NBA, where he played almost 1000 games throughout his career. He was immodest and described his actions as the best he had ever seen on TV. However, a knee injury defeated his love of basketball and he was forced to retreat after 13 years of a wonderful career.
11. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
The pearl of our list. The legendary Karim had great height and an irresistible throw, which he learned while playing in Rucker Park. He began his career with games at school, where thanks to him, his team played without defeat for about 70 games in a row. Further, the university, where he was noticed, invited him to the big sport. His brilliant career made him a record holder by almost every NBA criterion. Most games, most points, 6 times the best player in the NBA, etc... Even eye problems did not let him stop, and every season he got better. After completing his professional career, Karim continued to inspire future basketball players through coaching.
12. Herman Knowings
Unfortunately, Herman, or as he was called “Helicopter”, never made it into professional sports, forever remains a legend in Haarlem. Herman loved arguments and for their sake, he was even ready to climb on the roof and perform a slam-dunk from there, for which, by the way, he received his nickname. His performance has been praised by many stars of Rucker Park. Unfortunately, his story did not end with a happy ending ‒ an accident with his car took Herman out of the basketball world forever.
13. Brian Watson
A unique streetball player from Philadelphia, he entered the history of streetball without dreaming about it. A versatile streetball soldier, he knew how to do almost everything to win and in any position. And he did it well. Brian didn't like parties and big campaigns, staying away from people, for which he was nicknamed “Sad Eye”. Despite his talent, streetball was just a hobby for him. And when he got tired of it, he just quit basketball when many were just starting their professional careers.
14. Nate Archibald
He gained his fame playing in Rucker Park. Nate became famous for his speed with which he ran on the basketball court, for which he was nicknamed The Skate. Even though he became an NBA star and champion, Skate loved New York and returned to Rucker Park, again and again, playing with his fellow Pee Wee and homies, never forgetting where he started his journey.
15. Jackie Jackson
After moving to New York at an early age, Jackie immediately fell in love with basketball. Together with future stars such as Connie the Hawk and many others, he played in high school tournaments. For his high jumps, which he regularly used, he was nicknamed “Jumping Jackie”. Rucker park tournaments led him to a 20-year NBA career.
16. Wilt Chamberlain
The incredible NBA record holder, who became one of the best basketball players in the world, had tremendous height (for which he had many nicknames) and incredible endurance. Lovelace of Philadelphia started with tournaments at the university, but they failed to satisfy his hunger for basketball and he became an NBA star, earning an average of 45 points per game. But even after that, filming in movies, and numerous fees and records, Wilt did not hesitate to play in the yard with his fellows, leaving no chance for any of his rivals.
17. Lewis Lloyd
Many called him “Black Magiс” because his game was truly magical. Acrobatic skills, great passing, and slamming dunks are all about him. He showed himself in high school, where he also studied with Wilt Chamberlain. He played seven full seasons in the NBA, and despite the cocaine scandals, his career went relatively well. Upon completion, he became a coach in Philadelphia.
18. Rafer Alston
Rafer probably knew from the very beginning that he would have a great career ahead of him. From an early age, he played streetball at New York City courts. From time to time, he began to collect whole crowds of spectators who came to gaze at him, as did the famous Dr. J. For the fact that he often sang the song Skip 2 My Lou, he received the nickname of the same name. The acquired skills allowed him to play as many as 8 different clubs in the NBA. He ended his career in a Chinese club, where he did not want to return due to injury.
19. Jack Ryan
The Brooklyn basketball player, nicknamed “Blackjack”, instead of moving to Rucker Park, as the main part of New York street players, remained faithful to his native school. And even having reached a fairly decent level of play, he decided to continue training, honed his shooting and trick techniques at high school in Brooklyn. He is considered an incredibly accurate, agile, and outstanding streetball player who has not played in the NBA. His specialization is various tricks with the ball, beautiful throws, well-aimed hits. Now Jack has gone on tour, where he performs with basketball tricks at the holidays and various shows.
20. Angel Cruz
Angel Cruz from Puerto Rico, aka Monchito, was an in-demand professional Latin American basketball player. Angel was born in New York, from an early age he was attracted to basketball. He was popular on the kids' basketball court, high school, and college. The spirit of a winner and passion brought him to a professional level. His career began at the age of 18. For 13 seasons Cruz defended the honor of Indios de Canovanas. He played for the Pan American team of Puerto Rico and took part in the silver medal win in San Juan. In 1990, in Buenos Aires, at the FIBA World Tournament, his team took fourth place and went on a record, beating the strongest teams in Australia, the US, and Yugoslavia. But they failed to set the record, Puerto Rico gave up the last two victories to the USA and USSR national teams. Monchito disappeared under unknown circumstances when he went to visit his family in Puerto Rico. Since 1998, nothing else has been heard about him.
21. Larry Williams
According to Slam Magazine, Larry is the most dangerous streetball player ever known. He was given the nickname "Bone Collector" for his ability to "break a player's ankle." Williams is from Texas and spent his childhood in Southern California. He changed his place of residence more than once and, accordingly, basketball teams. He played at Chaffee College, later in New York at the Globe Institute of Technology. Williams loved New York and it inspired him to become a top-notch player at Rucker Park. He was not afraid to challenge his rivals one-on-one, betting more money. Some refused, realizing that it was rather risky. But fear not, Larry is a wonderful person, he coaches university players from different countries. "Bone Collector" gained popularity after winning Entertainers Basketball Classic for 5 consecutive years from 2001 to 2006. He is one of the top 50 best Streetball Association members of all time.
22. Anthony Heyward
"Halfman, Halfamazing" ‒ this is how the famous Duke Tango, Rucker Park's MC called Anthony Heyward. The Brooklyn player deftly dribbled the ball across the entire court, and then impressed the audience with an unprecedented trick ‒ he jumped over an opponent with ease, who was objectively larger than Anthony. The nickname stuck to Hayward. Although later this nickname was used by another basketball player, we know who it was originally intended for.
23. Karim Reid
Almost every streetball fan in the Bronx knows Karim Reid. Karim was a point guard in the National Basketball League. His passion for basketball since college had grown into a professional game in many European and American leagues. A team from the East with his help was able to get a silver medal at the Olympic Festival in the United States. But despite the good results, the NBA did not want to pay attention to Karim. The Bronx basketball player continued to earn fame in various professional leagues in the United States and other countries, and over time, a contract with Asheville Altitude opened the way for him to the NBDL Championship in 2003-2004, where he was awarded third place in the league. Since then, Karim's success has grown significantly.
Reid practiced on the stage in his city for several years, his enormous potential was a mystery to most, thanks to which he became known as the “Best Kept Secret”. True, now this nickname has lost its relevance ‒ the guy showed himself to the fullest long ago and led more than one team to victory, became the motivation for many novice basketball players, and went down in the history of streetball in the Bronx.
24. Conrad McRae
Konrad is a successful basketball player from the United States who chose to continue his development and build a career in Europe. He led teams from Italy, France, Greece, and Turkey to victory, and was honored to participate in the Youth Olympic Games. McRae showed himself in sports while still a schoolboy. Getting a technical education, Konrad devoted a lot of time to training. The nickname "McNasty" was given to him after playing at Rucker Park in Harlem. In his student years, good physical fitness, perseverance and previously acquired skills led the future star to the Phi Beta Sigma brotherhood in Syracuse. And in 1993, Konrad was lucky to play in the Washington Bullets team.
McRae grew up and his skills grew with him. He was a member of many clubs in European countries, showed himself as a real leader. It was thanks to Conrad that the Istanbul team of Ephesus was able to win the FIBA Korac Cup in 1995-96. True, it was not without embarrassment ‒ for example, once, before a game in Europe, a basketball player could not rest properly, which is why he accidentally mixed up baskets during the game and scored the ball into his own.
McRae's career developed rapidly, in 1999 he signed a contract for 10 days with the Denver Nuggets. But shortly before the start of the tournament, Konrad lost consciousness, and they decided to break the contract.
Unfortunately, McNasty was not condemned to fulfill all of his plans. In 2000, during his summer training at the University of California, Irvine, Konrad fell and died while running.
25. Corey Williams
34-year-old Corey Williams from New York is called "Homicide" for a reason, he knows neither fear nor doubt, his style of play is confident and sharp. He is considered the best streetball player of his generation. He came to the professional level quite late compared to other streetball stars. Williams attended high school in New York City, but he was overlooked by student teams at the NCAA level. While Corey's level of play was high enough, no one wanted to promote the little-known rookie. His attempts to attract the attention of agents in the South also failed. This prompted the athlete to return to New York and, on his own, achieve considerable success on the streets familiar from childhood. He performed well in many urban street tournaments and became more and more famous among other players.
After the NBA TV broadcast of Williams' tournament, Toronto Raptors saw the young man's talent and invited him to their training camp. This contributed to Corey's professional growth and after a few years, he managed to reach the top of the NBA list.
"Homicide" performed in several countries: Brazil, Sweden, the Dominican Republic, he was invited to play for one of the most successful Chinese teams. The athlete intends to further develop in his direction and conquer new heights.