‘Where’s Felipe?’

  • “Former New York City playground legend and NBA player Felipe Lopez, now an ambassador for the NBA Cares program Wiggins spent time with on Wednesday, thinks Wiggins is ready for anything.”


    Felipe is a guy who would know.

    Recently, I posted info about city hoops basketball (playground ball) in our forum.

    There is so much going on today with education. Schools in poverty zones are being closed at an alarming rate with the hope of centralizing and homogenizing education for our inner-city youth. There are many factors at play here, including an attempt to make sure and expose children from various backgrounds to other children from various backgrounds (including differing races and cultures).

    I have no desire to open a can of worms on these school closings. However, what is clear is these closings will impact the game of basketball moving forward. Just like soccer, where so many developmental elements of the game came from favelas in Sao Paulo. The same favelas that have been systematically destroyed to revamp Brazil for the current World Cup and also the coming Olympics. So many moves in basketball today came from inner cities… came from inner city playgrounds… came from inner city schools.

    So it seems likely, that basketball will suffer consequences as America revamps her inner cities.

    We’ve witnessed the NBA over the years, systematically adapting rules to remove parts of the game that has always been a part of inner city basketball. So much of the contact is now penalized in hopes of rebranding the game to focus away from the more violent aspects towards the artistic high-flying ballet highlights. College basketball got a big taste of all this last year. Defenders weren’t allowed to keep hand checks on a driving player and the charge calls restricted further in attempts to reduce contact.

    Will the game live on? We know it will continue high viewership in the near future, but what about down the road?

    I believe many people don’t like when the play gets rough. It can play a part in creating more injuries and it can stop plays, dead in their tracks, from finishing out to offer even more acrobatic highlights and more scoring.

    However. Rough play has a dramatic role in basketball. Like life and like most dramatic performances, there always needs to be a bad guy, there needs to be a hill to climb, there needs to be hardship for the greats to prove they can conquer it to prove themselves great.

    At what point does the game of basketball move backwards? At what point is it not attractive enough for audiences to just watch more and more scoring? How many points is enough? Can the game live without villains? Can the game live without the added development created through the magic of inner city lifestyles and their localized basketball?

    In past posts I shared a part of that inner city culture. Part of that magic that was the tool for developing so many great basketball players and the moves that brought them greatness.

    I am a huge fan of the game. I possess so many highlights in my memory. Plays that will continue to recycle through my consciousness until I die. Many came from the NBA and college basketball. An equal number came from playground basketball. So many came from the short periods between playground games, when the unknown talents had to show their stuff in hopes that they would get selected to stay on the court. NBA draft? It all started on the playground, when kids finally were selected to play game ball. That was their first draft… their first selection process.

    Here is a link, answering the question, ‘Where’s Felipe?’


  • Well street ball is alive and healthy in girls high school age AAU tourneys here in Texas. I was at a tourney this weekend and the refs basically swallowed their whistles. I do not care for street ball. Basically the kids with the skills get hammered by the less talented players because that is the only equalizer. Sometimes shooters hit the ground with a no call. We had two injuries in four games. We nearly had a couple of fights because the refs lost control of the games and were inconsistent.

    I remember the watching the first KU game last year and it was a disaster. Luckily refs and players adjusted as the season went on. I still think the pendulum swung too far with this change of rules in college basketball.

    I suppose this inner city change could have long term effects on the game, but then again-what is it 1% make it to the nba? The cream will still rise to the top.

  • IMHO, much like street fighting, inner city street/playground ball is highly over rated. In a ring with a referee, an average trained fighter will beat a comparable street fighter every time; likewise, a well trained player will outperform a street/playground baller of comparable ability on a court with a referee and when playing as a team. Most college coaches will tell you that they spend most of the first season weaning players from the bad habit acquired playing street/playground ball and poor coaching.

    Yes, many of the better players started on the playgrounds but became great with proper coaching and in more formal settings. away from the playgrounds. Just my opinion.

  • Back in the day we played on an outdoor court near SM East. Summer time during high school and college -evenings-Saturdays. Just open court pickup stuff but competitive and fun-we were in our mid to late 20s professionals who did need to get hurt from a hobby. One day group showed up from another neighborhood. Blue collar croud at best and 100% street ball. We were easily as athletic but quickly got tired off all the cr*p. Ultimately we figured out they were there to take over the court all together. It still ticks me off- After a while we decided to join a couple of nice health clubs with wooden floors and glass backboards. It was pocket change and soon we realized we could play year round without weather issues. All’s well that ends well-but I will always hate street ball.

  • Slayr, thanks for this insightful, elegiac post.

    But stay positive. Kids always save the game in unforeseeable ways! I forgot this the other day in my despair about Embiid.

    When the urban ballers took on the game, there was great sadness about the passing of the great farm ball players. You know: the lost pastoral individualism of farm boys like my father working tirelessly on a basket in a farm yard in Autumn with wheat stubble and corn stalks beyond. Training by running through small town graveyards and across railroad river bridges with the whistle wailing in the distance. This really happened less than a century ago. Remembering my dad talk about playing it in his small town makes me cry right now. He said it wasn’t the small town boys he venerated. It was the farm boys all alone endlessly working to perfect their games in lonely isolation that he venerated.

    No one told the farm boys to consecrate the game. They did it out of love and isolation and the need to be good at something in a world that wastes young boys and ignores them to death.

    Then the people and the game moved to cities, to inner cities and suburbs. The game needed consecrating again. No one told the poor black and white city kids to save the game again. Especially no one told the descendants of slaves to do it. The boys did it because that is what boys do. They brim with beautiful fury.

    Boys finally won the Civil War, slayr, not generals, or Presidents, or Morgan and the Rothschilds. Boys did it. Lincoln knew this. Read the Gettysburg address. They consecrated the ground and the nation. Only boys can do this.

    The beauty of basketball is they can consecrate it without being blown to bits.

    You and I are right to love them and perhaps you more than me. You played with them more than I did. They changed a country more lastingly and more deeply than all the freedom marches did.

    The inner city boys you rightly venerate consecrated the game again. And our country.

    And now the game moves to suburbs and third world countries and once again boys will consecrate the game.

    Rock Chalk, slayr.

  • Thanks everyone, for posting on this.

    I’d like to see more posters come in here and share their experiences, good and bad.

    I’ll keep the faith, @jaybate , that the game will be saved by future generations of boys (and girls).

    I defend street ball because I played so much of it as a kid and young man. I also, have a soft spot for YMCAs… because it was the Y’s that took kids like me and gave us organized (and monitored) sports to play, especially through the summers, when kids tend to stray off course.

    I definitely picked up some moves (and swagger) playing street ball, but learning to play within the boundaries came from early organized basketball (for me). I feel fortunate to have both backgrounds. I do really think I could help a player like Perry reach his potential if I could get him onto the right summer court somewhere.

    We could extract the aggression out of him like a dentist could extract a wisdom tooth.

  • @drgnslayr

    Damn straight you could help him.

  • @drgnslayr As much as I respect finess players like Ellis, I also think he needs to get on a diet of red meat-and learn from t-robs attitude and play. So I should back off of my “hate street ball” comment and say some players need some of that swagger and play-just not too much mixed in.

  • @JayhawkRock78

    Just curious, what makes you believe that T-Rob acquired his swagger playing street ball? His Sr. year he attended Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, N.H.and before that he played HS basketball at Riverdale Baptist High School in Upper Marlboro, Md, a well-to-do suburb of Washington DC and nowhere near the inner city playgrounds. By the way, the best basketball league in the Washington DC area is the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) which is all private schools. The closest he came to street ball is playing AAU ball that Ellis also played.

    Again, I personally believe that street ball is overrated and most players acquire their real swagger playing organized HS basketball. In any case, with the advent of AAU basketball, this is where the better players play and improve their games and not in playgrounds.Just my opinion.

  • @JayHawkFanToo Actually I forgot about his background when I wrote that. What I meant was the fired up “here I come with the ball-even if I have to go through you and we both end up laid out on the court at the end of the play.” Was it Traylor, maybe Black that did that to Ridley last year-Ridley wanted no part of it and still got punished.

  • @JayHawkFanToo

    "Just curious, what makes you believe that T-Rob acquired his swagger playing street ball? "

    It isn’t a requirement of developing swagger to play street ball. However… do we really know TRob’s childhood info? I looked at the Google street views of the neighborhood surrounding the church that held the service for his mom. It didn’t look well-to-do but also didn’t look too bad.

    The twins played more like boys from the inner city, than TRob. More because they had a tougher adjustment to college life, rules, college ball, etc. Swagger can be a great thing, but there are often “side effects” that have to be dealt with, too. It took some backfiring experiences from the twins to show them a better path. They eventually learned that developing a street cred in D1 came with a price, like being tossed from games or not given charitable calls… or firing up an opponent by dishing jaw.

    I’m really curious how their careers will turn out. They are still puppies in the league.

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