Time for Tip-offs
By Ariadis de la Cruz
Just as the NBA enters its post season this month, the New York City Street basketball circuit begins prepping for its summer tournaments. Organizers like those at Dyckman Park are in a race to get all things ready for tip-offs that begin the first week of June. The tournament gathers supplies and equipment from major sponsors. The teams are also holding tryouts, workouts and scrimmages, for players to get them ready to compete.
The Dyckman basketball tournament is located in Washington Heights, just off 207th street. It is one of the most popular sites for elite basketball, not just in the city but in the nation. Run by Kenny Stevens, the tournaments have come a long way from being just neighborhood kids in different color t-shirts playing on an old beat-up playground. In just about a decade, the tournament has gone from being supported by just local businesses, to gaining Nike, one of the largest sponsors in the world.
The Dyckman basketball tournament has elementary, middle school, high school, and college-pro divisions. Each division has its own dedicated group of fans. College-pro division is the main event most nights during the summer. Players in each division pour their hearts on Dyckman’s green pavement and make a name for themselves.
Coaches hold open gyms to find new talent, while also providing drills to help condition their players for the long summer ahead. Players learn of the open gyms by word of mouth, social media, and invites from coaches. Blood, sweat, and tears pour onto the hardwood floors of city schools throughout the city.
Stakes in the high school division and college-pro division can be high. The Dyckman tournament is a showcase for potential college scholarships, professional basketball contracts, and even endorsement deals. Many players train year round. And coaches expect them to be ready.
Celebrities like rappers Jadakiss and Juelz Santana have made it a priority to have their teams participate each summer. In 2012 rapper Young Jeezy introduced his team to the tournament. Thousands gather to watch the shows, in a park meant only to seat hundreds. People climb on fences, light posts, and rooftops, trying to catch a glimpse of the action.
NBA professionals have graced the parks with their talents. In 2011, when the NBA players and owners could not come to a contractual agreement and the players were not able to train with their teams, Brandon Jennings, Michael Beasley, and NBA superstar Kevin Durant joined in tournament games.