This weekend, LeBron James participated in the Drew League, where he did not fail to put on a show (42 points, 16 rebounds) with DeMar DeRozan (30 points, 14 rebounds).
Twenty years earlier, it is a certain Kobe Bryant (23 years old) who took advantage of his summer vacation to go to a playground and face amateurs there. Incidentally the most mythical of all: Rucker Parkthe temple of street ballopened in 1956.
On July 18, 2002, one month after having validated his hat-trick with the Lakers, the “Black Mamba” arrived in New York, in the district of Harlem, such as the Super star that he already was. Surrounded by an army of bodyguards, he unexpectedly appeared on the field, wearing sunglasses, a sky blue sleeveless shirt and a large pendant set with diamonds.
Very quickly, the spectators started to go crazy and want to rush to meet him.
Then, as soon as his walkabout was over, Kobe Bryant got ready to play, putting on an orange jersey and a pair of shoes (Nike Air Force 1 Mids, even though he only signed in 2003 with the brand to the comma). Before starting to feel the swelling at the place where Lew Alcindor (future Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), Wilt Chamberlain, Julius Erving, Nate Archibald or Earl Monroe set foot before heading to the NBA, to become legends in this league.
A memorable but shortened passage
And, despite his status as a four-time All-Star and three-time NBA champion, the back of Los Angeles still had to earn his stripes as the new hero of Rucker Park, astounding an audience certainly committed to his cause, but demanding. Facing him and his “Murder Inc.” team, we notably found Moochie Norris (Rockets) and Jerome Williams (Raptors) in the “Source” team, which arrived late at the playground.
Which delayed the match by an hour, while the weather was (already) threatening…
Finally, the game was held and Kobe Bryant – who would finish with 15 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists on the counter – ignited the New York crowd several times. Like when he eliminated an opponent by bouncing the ball on his back (!), to finish better on a layup knocked down, bottom line. But he also got a few boos, after miscalculating his trajectory on a 360 degree dunk, missing it in the process!
Unfortunately, the match could not be completed, at least for the Lakers player, because the arrival of the rain forced the participants to stop at the start of the second half. To end the meeting, therefore, direction the Bronx for everyone, except for the “Black Mamba”, who withdrew by greeting the public one last time.
Thus punctuating his memorable visit to Rucker Park, in “the Mecca” of street ball…