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Rucker Park - The Yankee Stadium of Streetball

By

Fat Joe's Terror Squad

Rapper Fat Joe talks to his "Terror Squad" street ball team during one a tournament in 2005.

Photo by Diane Bondareff/Yahoo via Getty Images

Venue:

Holcombe Rucker Basketball Courts, also known as "Rucker Park"

Location:

155th Street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard
New York, NY
Map and Satellite View

Rucker Park is in the Harlem neighborhood of Upper Manhattan, just across the Harlem River from Yankee Stadium.

Home Of:

Rucker Park hosts more pickup games that can be counted by any reasonable means. The famed red-and-green court also plays host to a number leagues and events that draw some of America's greatest players, including the Entertainers Basketball Classic and the Elite 24 High School all-star game.

I Played Here:

Throw out a significant basketball name from the last 40 years -- odds are, he's played at Rucker Park. Wilt Chamberlain. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Julius Erving. Allen Iverson. Kobe Bryant. New York-bred ballplayers like Kenny Smith, Jamal Mashburn, Rod Strickland, Stephon Marbury and Rafer Alston have been regulars. And with the advent of high school-level events like the Boost Mobile Elite 24, Rucker Park draws a list of prep stars that rivals the McDonald's All American game each year, including Kevin Love, Michael Beasley, Jerryd Bayless and Brandon Jennings.

Featured In:

Rucker Park has been featured in a number of movies and documentaries. The most recent is Gunnin for that #1 Spot, a documentary on the 2006 Elite 24 Hoops Classic, directed by Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys.

A 2006 documentary called The Real: Rucker Park Legends traces the history of the park and features many all-time greats like Abdul-Jabbar and Erving.

Profile:

Rucker Park may be the most famous playground in the world, but its origins are far more humble.

The park is named for Holcombe Rucker, a New York City Parks Department employee who started a basketball tournament aimed at helping disadvantaged kids in his upper Manhattan neighborhood. Over the years, the tournament grew, attracting some of the NCAA and NBA's greatest players like Wilt Chamberlain and Earl "The Pearl" Monroe... and helped hundreds of kids get scholarships for college.

Rucker died of cancer in 1965, but the traditions he started -- and his name -- carried on. In 1971, the playground that hosted the his Tournament was named the "Holcombe Rucker Playground" in his honor.

The EBC

While the original tournament and Summer Pro Leagues faded in popularity, a new phenomenon came to take their place: the Entertainers Basketball Classic (EBC). The EBC started in the early 80s as a series of games between rap groups, but has grown into the world's largest streetball tournament, complete with television coverage, sponsors, and a host of really entertaining nicknames.

It is EBC tradition for game announcers to assign nicknames to players -- but only after they've played well enough to earn one. Kobe Bryant -- the only player to participate in the EBC after winning an NBA title -- was "Lord of the Rings." Rafer Alston of the Houston Rockets was "Skip to My Lou," and former Arkansas guard Kareem Reid is known as "Best Kept Secret."

The Elite 24 Hoops Classic

A new event was added to the Rucker's crowded summer calendar in 2006 with the inaugural Elite 24 Hoops Classic. Unlike other high school all-star events like the McDonald's All-American game, the Elite 24 invites the best players at the prep level, regardless of age or class.

The first Elite 24 Hoops Classic was the subject of Adam Yauch's documentary, Gunnin' for that #1 Spot, and featured Michael Beasley, Kevin Love, Jerryd Bayless and Lance Stephenson, among others.

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