Legends Blog

Best Playground Basketball Courts in America August 14 2018, 1 Comment

Although the playground game isn’t what it used to be, we still love outdoor basketball. Basketball has always helped neighborhoods to channel their energy into sports and away from tough situations. Admission is free, and each night there is potential to watch professional, college and high school players hone their skills. We give you the best playground basketball courts in America.

Rucker Park
Rucker Park - Harlem, New York
Veterans: Wilt Chamberlain, Julius “The Doctor” Erving, Connie Hawkins, Joe “Destroyer” Hammond, Tiny Archibald, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Peewee Kirkland, “Jumping” Jackie Jackson, Kobe Bryant, Vince Carter, Allen Iverson, Kevin Durant
The most famous and important basketball court of all time. Rucker Park has long been considered hallowed ground and for good reason. Everyone’s who’s anyone, grew up dreaming of showing their skills at Rucker. The long list of NBA pros that played here, grows each year. The court is located in Harlem, it has added features like lights and additional seating throughout the years. Several great tournaments have been played at the Rucker. From the original Rucker-Pro tournament to the Entertainers Basketball Classic, the park has stayed relevant for more than 50 years. It has also played host to celebrity fans like Bill Clinton, Denzel Washington, Barrack Obama, Spike Lee and many more have all attended games at Rucker.

The Cage
The Cage - Queens, New York
Veterans: Rod Strickland, Lloyd Daniels, Lamar Odom, Ron Artest, Eric Barkley, Smush Parker. Filipe Lopez, Booger Smith, Kenny Anderson, Anthony Mason
Maybe the most unique court on the list. The Cage attracts people from all walks of life, from Queens natives to out of town travelers. Close confines of the fence and the court gives it a grimy feel. Fans and onlookers line the fences directory surrounding the court, giving them the feeling that they are in on the action. Fouls are rarely called here and some times an incident can take place. Here, Rod Strickland perfected his handle, Ron Artest developed his no-nonsense defensive approach and Lamar Odom learned his versatile skills. Even today, the best talent in New York can be found at The Cage.

Dyckman Basketball Courts
Dyckman - Manhattan, New York
Veterans: Ron Artest, Kyrie Irving, Keydrin Clark, Kemba Walker, Isaiah Washington, Tyreke Evans,Corey Fisher, Francisco Garcia, Kevin Durant, Michael Beasley, Trey Burke, Dwight Hardy, Jeremy Hazell, Felipe Lopez, Kareem Reid, JR Smith, Corey Williams
Home to the Dyckman league and other high profile tournaments throughout the last 3 decades. Today, the court is one of the most famous in the world and has gained traction in the last few decades. What was a one division, six-team tournament in 1990, is now a tournament with 6 age divisions, containing 77 teams. Its college/pro division is one of the best leagues during summertime, on any given night you are liable to see NBA, NCAA, and overseas professionals on the court. Kemba Walker, Kevin Durant, Michael Beasley and many more have been regulars over the last couple summers. In 2011, Nike formed a team loaded with the top street ball talent in NYC and named them “Team Nike.” They skated through Dyckman staying undeafted throughout the season. When it’s not being used for a tournament, good pick-up runs can still be found at Dyckman.

The Garden Coney Island Basketball
The Garden - Coney Island, New York
Veterans: Stephon Marbury, Sebastian Telfair, Lance Stephenson, Jamell Thomas, Isaiah Whitehead, Norman Marbury, Don Marbury, Eric Marbury, Antonio Pena,
Featured in Spike Lee’s 1997 film He Got Game, this Coney Island hotbed has held legendary games since the 70’s. This is the court where Stephon Marbury became one of the most famous New York high school players of all time. It fostered generations of the Marbury clan into basketball success at higher levels. Located just under the fourth floor of the Marbury’s family apartment in the Surf-Side Gardens Projects in Coney Island section of Brooklyn. Several famed players from Abraham Lincoln high school grew up playing in The Garden. After Marbury, players like Sebastian Telfair, Antonio Pena, Lance Stephenson and Isaiah Whitehead have held it down for Coney Island. The park is still home to the legendary Bro-Day game, which features many of New York’s top players.

 

GOAT Park
The GOAT Park “Happy Warrior” - New York, New York
Veterans: Wilt Chamberlain, Earl Manguigut, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Rafter Alston, Ron Artest, Booger Smith
Four separate courts align the playground and the pastel colors form the lines of the court. Rafer Alston is still a regular at GOAT park even though he is far removed from his youth. Named after the most famous legend NYC has ever had, Earl Manigault made his reputation on these courts during the seventies. Chris Ballard of Hoops Nation "The stories about how he would go up against Wilt (Chamberlain) and dunk on him. Of how he could do a double dunk. Of how he could grab a dollar off the top of the backboard and make change before coming down.” The man himself did confirm the legend "'A lot of that is true, I could grab the dollar, but the part about making the change isn't true. The double dunk, I did that." A young schoolboy at local Power Memorial high frequented the park often catching glimpses of Earl Manigault. Eventually Kareem Abdul-Jabbar grew big enough to play against him. Leading Jabbar to admit on his NBA retirement night that “Earl Manigault was the best player I ever played against”. Few courts are connected to one player like this court is connected to “The GOAT”.

Kingdome
Kingdome - Harlem, New York
Veterans: Ron Artest, Pearl Washington, Rafer Alston, Walter Berry, Ed Pinckney, Jamaal Tinsley, Carl Krauser, Tracy McGrady, Elton Brand, Joakim Noah, Tim Thomas, Mo Bamba, Hamidou Diallo
Another great court located in Harlem, Kingdome was once a hot spot in the city. Kingdome was closed for several years after financier Dame Dash couldn’t help run the park. It took several years but eventually the Kingdome did open again. At one time The Kingdome Classic was the most important tournament in the city, behind only EBC. The Classic regularly featured NBA pros like Tracy McGrady, Stephon Marbury, Elton Brand, Lamar Odom and a bevy of other stars. Since its reopening, it has been working its way back into the elite circles of NYC summer basketball. Recently a bevy of high school stars like Hamidou Diallo, Mo Bamba and Isaiah Washington have brought tradition back to Harlem.

Sole in The Hole
Sole in The Hole - Brownsville, New York
Veterans: Connie Hawkins, Swee' Pea Lloyd Daniels, Booger Smith
Located on the border between Brooklyn and Queens, “The Hole” has always been considered a lost neighborhood. Still there is beauty in that struggle, Sole in The Hole is a unique playground that pays homage to the ballplayers that have came before. Lloyd “Swee’ Pea” Daniels learned the game here while growing up, mastering his all around game that translated to a short NBA career. Rumor has it Connie Hawkins used to snatch quarters off the top of the backboards, in order to win bets.

Peters Park
Peters Park - Boston, Massachusetts
Veterans: Dana Barros, Patrick Ewing, Wayne Selden
Boston’s top playground court has the best runs in the city. A great “Soul Revival” mural is displayed on the walls running parallel to the courts. Legend has it Dana Barros was a regular at the park, routinely going for 50 in games. Patrick Ewing also spent some time here while learning the game, after moving to America. It contains two full-sized basketball courts that include bleachers for fans.

Barry Farms
Barry Farms Housing Community - Washington DC
Veterans: Kevin Durant, Curt “Trouble” Smith, Gilbert Arenas, Juan Dixon, Ty Lawson, Aquille “Crime Stopper” Carr, Bradley Beal
Home of the Goodman League, Gilbert Arenas got booed off the stage in his first Barry Farms appearance. If you don’t produce here, the crowd will let you know it. Many of the DMV’s elite come through Barry Farms and play in the Goodman league. Kevin Durant and Ty Lawson ran together for years as prep players. The most famed player out here might be Curt “Trouble” Smith who dominated the courts in the 90’s and early 2000’s. “Trouble” was a constant on the Barry Farm playgrounds as he dominated almost everyone he matched up with. The Goodman playground provide residents of the community with great pride and entertainment.

The Dome Baltimore
The Dome - Baltimore, Maryland
Sam Cassell, DeMarr Johnson, Steve Francis, Mugsy Bouges, Reggie Lewis, Carmelo Anthony, Juan Dixon, Steve Blake
The Dome is definitely no slouch when it comes to talent. NBA players such as Carmelo Anthony, Reggie Lewis, Juan Dixon, Sam Cassell and Mugsy Bogues have graced the Dome’s surface. The venue is also home to the legendary “Midnight Madness,” which are games that are played at 10:00 p.m., 11:00 p.m. and at 12:00 a.m. on Monday and Wednesday nights in the summertime. Under armor has stepped in and given the court a revamped look. The Dome’s indoor look and outdoor feel give players a special feeling when they take the court. Always a hot spot for University of Maryland and Georgetown players.

Cloverdale
Cloverdale - Baltimore, Maryland
Carmelo Anthony, Rudy Gay, Sam Cassell, Juan Dixson,
Home to NBA star Carmelo Anthony, Cloverdale is one of the more constant playgrounds on our list. You can still get a quality game, unlike many of the other Baltimore playgrounds. NBA champion Sam Cassell has graced the court as well as Baltimore Bullets of the 1970’s like Wes Unseld and Elvin Hayes. Carmelo hosted Melo's Annual H.O.O.D. Movement 3 on 3 Challenge, a three-on-three tournament for local kids, the last couple of years there.

16th and Suquenhanna
16th and Susquehanna - North Philadelphia
Veterans: Rasheed Wallace, Aaron “AO” Owens, Earl Monroe, Aaron McKie, Bryant “Sad Eye” Watson, Doug Overton, Hank Gathers, Wilt Chamberlain, Bo Kimble
Philadelphia once ran one of the most entertaining and talent loaded summer tournaments in the country. It all took place on the basketball court at 16th and Susquehanna. Nightly, hundreds of local fans would descend upon 16th. Today is a far cry from the glory days, the league that once brought future NBA talent has since folded. The action here has dried up over the years but a good game can still be found from time to time. In the early 90’s Simon Gratz's players like Rasheed Wallace, Aaron McKie and Aaron Owens could be seen regularly at Susquehanna. “Sixteenth Street really inspired me, because 16th Street was outside, and it was in the community,” Kenny Thompson says. “As soon as the Sonny Hill League games were over, you could walk around the corner to 16th Street, and the games would be going on. You would see some of the top players in the city. It was a whole different atmosphere. It was like going to a family reunion or family barbecue with basketball as the centerpiece.”

 

Cherashore Park Philadelphia - The Chosen League

Cherashore Park - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Veterans: Kyle Lowry, Wayne Ellington, Gerald Henderson, Markieff Morris, Marcus Morris, Tony Carr, Tyreke Evans
Also known as 10th and Only, Cherashore Park has gained a lot of traction the past couple of seasons. Home to the biggest summer league in all of Philadelphia, the court has picked up some serious renovations thanks to sponsors EA Sports, Mitchell and Ness, NIKE, Red Bull, The Villa and The Philadelphia 76ers. Home to The Chosen League, creator Rahim Thompson takes pride in bringing the community together. The league has produced 125 Division I players. Over 40 alumni of the Chosen League have played professionally, including current NBA stars Kyle Lowry, Wayne Ellington, Gerald Henderson and Markieff and Marcus Morris. The stands are often packed come time for The Chosen League, its not uncommon for 500 fans to show up for a game. The pick-up ball here is legit, so don’t be surprised if you get embarrassed.

Clark Park Philadelphia
Clark Park - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Veterans: Joe “Jelly Bean” Bryant, Kobe Bryant, Jameer Nelson
Known for its grittiness and “no blood, no foul” style of game play, be careful for the natives. This court’s most famous for its match-ups between the older players and younger players. Veterans such as Joe “Jelly Bean” Bryant (Kobe’s dad) still play there, defending their court. Still a relevant spot for Philadelphia’s best young ball players to test their game.

LeClaire Courts Chicago
LeClaire Courts - Chicago, Illinois
Veterans: Tim Hardaway, Paul McPherson, Eddy Curry, Brian Leech, Juwan Howard, Billy Harris, Kendall Gill
Although there are outdoor courts at LeClaire, the best ball is played indoor. As the years pass, anyone who's a real ball player has played on the courts at LeClaire. The one time home to the Chicago’s Pro-Am, the indoor courts are still relevant today helping many of Chicago’s youth. The court was home to Brian Leech’s legendary 70 point game, and several other memorable playground stories.

King Cole Park Chicago
King Cole Park - Chicago, Illinois
Veterans: Cassie Russel, Ricky Green, Bo Ellis, Sonny Parker, Quinn Buckner, Nick Anderson, Hersey Hawkins, Lamar Mundane
King Cole Park used to be a jewel of the city, now a day gang violence has taken talent out of the park. Named after Chicago native Nat “King” Cole, the park has been around for more than 40 years. Kings of Chicago like Sonny Parker, Cassie Russel and Quinn Buckner swear this spot was once the best in the city. Chicago native and New York Times sportswriter Ira Berkow wrote that it was one of the "most highly galvanized and competitive outdoor courts in the country.” Recently the shootings became so bad, so routine, that Freddrenna Lyle disabled the basketball courts at the famous Nat King Cole Park by putting locks on the rims. And then ordered that the hoops should come down altogether. A far cry from what used to take place at King Cole.

Fosters Park Chicago
Fosters Beach Court - Chicago, Illinois
Veterans: Tim Hardaway, Billy “The Kid” Harris, Brian Leach, Paul King, Michael Herman
Foster Park used to be the spot, some claim that it still is. With over 500 parks in Chicago, it’s hard for a court to standout. Don’t let the scenery of Lake Michigan fool you, Fosters park is a gritty playground that lays on Chicago's south side. Ronnie Fields and Paul McPherson are two park legends, that used to dominate here.

Jackson Park Chicago
Jackson Park - Chicago, Illinois
Veterans: Barrack Obama, Jimmy Hardaway, Kendall Gill, Antonie Walker
Located right next to Mt. Carmel High School, this was Barrack Obama’s home court. Jackson offers two basketball courts next to each other and they are some of the best-kept basketball courts in the city. Known as “The Cages”, this park also has a view of Lake Michigan. Beyond “The Cage” the park also had another set of courts across the street. Antoine Walker and Donovan McNabb were regulars here while attending Mt. Carmel High School. Recently Jackson Park has been home to the World Basketball Festival.

Sunset Park Ohio
Sunset Park - Middleton, Ohio
Veterans: Oscar Robertson, Jerry Lucas
Although the park isn’t what it once was, it may have been the greatest playground park in America during the 1950s. Famed players such as Oscar Robertson and Jerry Lucas would make the trip to Sunset Park to play among the best in the summertime. College and pro players from neighboring states like Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky would all come out to play. While Middleton isn’t the basketball factory it once was, the court still stands today.

St. Cecilia Courts Detroit
St Cecilia - Detroit, Michigan
Veterans: George Gervin, Dave Bing, Jimmy Walker, Magic Johnson, Isaiah Thomas, Voshon Lenard, Ralph Simpson, John Long, Doug Smith, Sean Higgins, Terry Mills, Howard Eisley, Antoine Joubert, Glen Rice, Morris Peterson, Jason Richardson, Steve Smith, Jalen Rose, Chris Webber, Derrick Coleman
Detroit has some of the harshest winters of any American city, so it makes sense the best basketball is played indoors. Everyone who’s anyone that can play ball in Detroit, has played at St. Cecilia’s. George Gervin may have started the tradition of making the gym a go-to spot for pros in the area. NBA-TV’s Steve Smith adds “There are always other leagues, but St. Cecilia’s is still where you measure yourself”. Dott Wilson longtime coach at Detroit Central HS, has oversaw the basketball at St. Cecilia for a long time. Recently ESPN personality Jalen Rose has stepped up and help fund St. Cecilia. Thus insuring future generations will have the same opportunities of those before them.

Tandy Rec. Center
Tandy Rec. Center - St. Louis, Missouri
Veterans: Jo-Jo White, Larry Hughes, Bradley Beal, Loren Woods, David Lee
Although its an indoor venue, Tandy is the top pickup court in the city. All the real legends of St. Louis have found their way to Tandy. Jo-Jo White helped make the spot well known while growing up in the 1960’s. This spot was once the court for University of St. Louis players during the summertime. Larry Hughes was the spots biggest legend, routinely showing up during the 90’s. If the weather is nice you can always get a few games in outside.

Rupert Bell Rec.
Rupert Bell Rec. - East Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Veterans: Chris Paul, Julius Hodge, Josh Howard
Home of a unique court similar to Baltimore’s “The Dome”. Rupert Bell Rec gives the players some shade while they run in the fierce summer heat. North Carolina has always had serious love for basketball and this playground court could be their crowing jewel. Recently Chris Paul, has helped to refurbish the basketball courts at the Rupert Bell. Chris and his brother would come down to the popular domed court when they were finished working their shifts at grandfather's gas station. When Chris made it to the NBA he refurbished the court in 2005 in honor of his late grandfather. Chris Paul’s dad commented "There were events here all the time," Paul said. "Guys had cookouts, things like that. My family would come up here. We (Paul and his brother, C.J.) played when we weren't in the backyard.”

Run N' Shoot Atlanta
Run N' Shoot - Atlanta, Georgia
Veterans: Dion Glover, Robert “50” Martin, DeMarr Johnson, Josh Smith
Run N’ Shoot was one of the crowning jewels in Atlanta from 1999 to 2002. The indoor physicality hosted the top basketball tournament in Atlanta, daily. During its peak several NBA pros, including Hawks players and Atlanta natives made the spot hot during the Summer months. Players from the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech would routinely show up to get a run in. Several street ball legends like Hot Sauce, Robert “50” Martin an Robert "Hot Sauce" Champion were mainstays at Run N’ Shoot. When they locked there doors for the final time, as mounting debts forced the gym to cease operations. Entrepreneur and coach Mike Williams, commented "Run N' Shoot had a tremendous impact from its beginning to its closing. You had hundreds and thousands of kids who have passed through the gym from 1999. At present, you're talking about hundreds and thousands of kids with nowhere to go.” Although it’s remained closed for more than a decade, the gym called Run N’ Shoot deserves mention.

Central Park Atlanta
Central Park - Atlanta, Georgia
Veterans: Jordan Hill
A park in the Fourth Ward West neighborhood of the Old Fourth Ward in Atlanta. It was known as Bedford-Pine Park prior to 1999. Plus, it has an indoor rec center with a basketball court and even a weight room. Several Georgia Tech players have been seen balling here in the summer time.

Conrad Playground New Orleans
Conrad Playground - New Orleans, Louisiana
Veterans: Robert Pack, Randy Livingston, Avery Johnson, Jaren Jackson,
A halfway indoor court, the Conrad playground is located in New Orleans’s 5th Ward. The games here as usually physical with top notch competition. Players like Robert Pack and Randy Livingston got their start right here at Conrad. Each summer the park holds an annual 3 on 3 tournament. You can even run under the lights after dark.

MacGregor Park Houston
MacGregor Park - Houston, Texas
Veterans: Clyde Drexler, Moses Malone, Hakeem Olajuwon, Dale Thompson, Willie Campbell, Edward “Mad Bomber” Paul, Bennie Anders, Rob Williams
The best playground court in all of Texas, people tend to agree the mecca of Texas is MacGregor. Most people swear MacGregor Park hasn’t changed since they were kids, the swooping arches, the line of red tiles, the white tin roof that makes every sound eco. Before his hall-of-fame NBA career Clyde Drexler honed his skills right here at MacGregor. Besides Drexler, a few members of the University of Houston’s Phi Slamma Jama used to run on this court regularly during summer. Legend has it Moses and Hakeem went at it during the early 1980’s at MacGregor.

Mosswood Basketball Oakland
Mosswood Park - Oakland, California
Veteans: Gary Payton, Jason Kidd, Hook Mitchell, Raymond King, Antonio Davis, Greg Foster, Brian Shaw, Damian Lillard, Drew Gooden
The best outdoor court in Northern California, the runs at Mosswood are serious. With legendary roots connected with almost every NBA alumni that has called Oakland home. Decades ago was the apex of Mosswood’s talent, with players like Gary Payton, Jason Kidd and Hook Mitchell frequenting the court. The court used to host legendary tournaments in the 80’s and 90’s. Hook Mitchell would routinely dunk over cars that were pulled onto the court. The director of Mosswood, George Hill commented “Most of the kids here now, they just want to imitate what they see on TV. It’s nothing like it was in the 70s or 80s when you had the real ballers coming through here,” he says. “Back then, if you lost a game you probably couldn’t even play again until the next day, there were so many people lined up waiting to get next.” Even recently players like Drew Gooden and Damian Lillard have sharped their skills at Mosswood. The Golden State Warriors have helped give the court various make-overs throughout the years.

Bushrod Rec. Oakland
Bushrod Rec Center - Oakland, California
Veterans: Hook Mitchell, JR Rider, Lester Connor, Raymond “Circus” King, Jason Kidd, Gary Payton, Greg Foster
Recently Bushrod has gotten a renovation, thanks to Steph Curry & Under Armor. When “the town” would get to hot for outdoor ball, most players sought refuge in this indoor basketball heaven. Bushrod community center was a common place for Isiah Rider to battle during his youth.

Angels Gate Park
Angels Gate Park - San Pedro, California
Located in sunny southern California, Angels Gate Park has an amazing Pacific Ocean backdrop. Although it doesn’t have top flight runs, it's still a great venue.

Venice Beach Courts
Venice Beach Courts - Venice Beach, California
Veterans: Kobe Bryant, Larry Bird, Raymond Lewis, Robin Kennedy, Nick Van-Exel, Eddie Jones, Baron Davis, Austin Croshere.
Get some run by the beach with some of the best scenery around. Legend has it that Larry Bird himself visited the court during the 86 All-Star week, supposedly Bird hustled everyone for their cash and didn’t leave the court all day. A young Kobe Bryant used to frequent Venice Beach, back when he wasn’t getting a lot of run with the Lakers during his first 2 season. Several summer tournament and leagues exists at Venice, the talent level is some of the best in LA. Don’t forget scenes from the infamous 1992 film White Men Can’t Jump were filmed right here.

Rogers Park Basketball Inglewood
Rogers Park - Inglewood, California
Veterans: Paul Peirce, Andre Miller, Pooh Jeter, Jason Hart, Baron Davis, Milt Palacios, Lisa Leslie, James Worthy, Jamal Wilkes, Michael Cooper
Not too far from the showtime Lakers Inglewood Forum home during the 80’s and 90’s, lies Rogers Park. Paul Pierce swears he owes his toughness to Rogers Park. Peirce admits “Rogers Park. That’s kinda where it all started for me.” While the court is isolated out on a solid patch of grass, the game is all contact. The park was notorious as a battleground for both basketball and the streets. Rogers indoor physicality was a hot spot for Lakers and Clippers during the early 90’s. The outdoor court has two stiff metal poles standing 8 feet tall on the sides of mid court. When the weather gets brutal most go inside to battle on the indoor courts.

Wilson Park Compton
Wilson Park - Compton, California
Veterans: Brandon Jennings, DeMar Derozan, Dennis Johnson
You can run under the lights of Wilson, where competition is stiff. Gritty style takes place at Wilson where the park has attracted local players from both Dominguez and Compton High Schools. Legend has it Dennis Johnson was first discovered here by a local junior college coach and given his first chance to play at the college level.

King Drew School LA
King Drew Magnet - Los Angeles, California
Veterans: DeMar DeRozan, Brandon Jennings, James Harden, Paul Pierce, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Paul George, Russell Westbrook, Baron Davis, Klay Thompson, Nick Young, Marvin Bagley
Home to the Drew League, LA’s version of the Pro-Am. The Drew is currently the go-to spot for NBA players playing during the summer. NBA players tend to live in Los Angles during the off season and the Drew has taken advantage. The gym has seen several renovations and improvements over the years with help from Nike.

Green Lake Basketball Seattle
Green Lake - Seattle, Washington
Veterans: Jamal Crawford, Nate Robinson, Brandon Roy, Jason Terry
Located in Green Lake park, this is an ideal spot for an outdoor basketball game. Plenty of space and scenery, just be careful of the wind. The Supersonics gave the court a renovation before leaving town in 2008. One of the top producers of talent in the country, several Seattle pros have balled at Green Lake at one time or another.

Toronto Community Center
Harborfront Community Centre - Toronto, Ontario
Veterans: Corey Joseph, Andrew Wiggins, Tristan Thompson
Our only spot in the Great White North, this court has been cited as the most popular in the city. The level of competition here is just as real as any other court in America, among its standouts are Andrew Wiggins, Corey Joseph, Tristan Thompson and other Canadian talents.

Honorable Mention

Gun Hill Playground - Bronx, NY

Cherry Tree Park - Manhattan, NY

Gauchos Gym - Bronx, NY

Fredrick Johnson Playground - New York, NY

Forsyth Playground - New York, NY

4th Ward Park - Linden, NJ

Roberto Clemente Park - Pittsburgh, PA

Garland Park - Pittsburgh, PA

Wilson Park - Chicago, IL

Powell Park - Raleigh, NC

Halle Park - Memphis, TN

Stripe Courts - Memphis, TN

Gresham Park - Atlanta, GA

Ben Hill Rec. - Atlanta, GA

Flamingo Park - South Beach Miami, FL

Tropical Park - Miami, FL

Kezar Pavilion - San Francisco, CA

Hoop Dome - Toronto, CN

Drop us a comment below and let us know if we missed any.


The 10 Greatest Streetball Players of All Time July 28 2016, 5 Comments

 In honor of the summertime, we bring you the 10 greatest playground legends of all time. These players were never able to realize their dream of playing in the NBA. Most of these guys share many parallels such as drug abuse, academic trouble and attitude problems. Streetball players built reputations largely on word of mouth. And they will forever be immortalized in their cities basketball history.

Ed "Booger" Smith

 

10. Ed “Booger” Smith - The subject of the famous documentary “Soul in the Hole”, The documentary follows a Brooklyn team called Kenny's Kings, as it competes in the summer tournament at the Hole in Bedford-Stuy. He was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated Magazine the same year as “Soul in the Hole” came out. The documentary and article both emphasized Booger’s unpredictable and street like mentality. His famous quote “If I don't make the NBA, ill be a drug dealer” shook the media establishment. Those who saw Booger in his prime claim he was an NBA level playmaker. At 5’8 148 pounds Booger’s frame was slight but the got to the basket against any defender. The Brooklyn native had unparalleled ball handling and passing ability. Booger played JUCO ball for only half a season, where he dominated averaging 21 points and 12 assists. He grew up playing against top NBA point guards like Rod Strickland, Rafter Alston and Kenny Anderson. Booger dominated at a variety of tournaments throughout the years, including EBC and Dyckman. In the mid 90s Booger would attract massive crowds wherever he showed up to play. The closest Booger came to playing pro ball came in 2001, when he relocated to Chicago to flee drug charges. Booger made his way to super trainer Tim Grover’s gym where he played in a pick up game with Michael Jordan. Grover was overly impressed with Booger and invited him to a pro tryout camp. When he arrived at the camp to register the next day, he was told he would not be allowed to participate. Eventually he went back to New York where he would be incarcerated from 2004 to 2008. You can check out his ball handling and passing exploits here.

 

Curtis CJ Jones

 

9. Curtis Jones - CJ was a 5'10" passing point guard out of Detroit. Many people swear he could take the ball the length of the court in only three dribbles. A great floor general, many believe he was the best passer they've ever seen play. Eye popping triple doubles or games of 2 points & 25 assists were regular for Curtis in high school. He attended Detroit Powerhouse Northwestern High School, where he led his team in points and assists his senior year. In 1967, he hit a game winner over 6'9, future NBA great Spencer Haywood to win the city championship, the opposing team also featured future pro Ralph Simpson. With an IQ of 73, CJ didn't stand a chance of making it to a major college. He attended North Idaho junior college and excelled on the basketball court. In his final season classmates and teacher began to notice that Jones was illiterate. Faced with massive embarrassment Jones returned home to Detroit. Jones was a fixture at legendary saint Cecilia’s dominating the courts for over 15 years. NBA Hall-of-Famer George Gervin, said this of CJ in an interview: “The best player I’ve ever seen was Curtis Jones.” Detroit natives Derrick Coleman, Jalen Rose and Dave Bing have all given tremendous praise to CJ’s game.

 

Brian "Sad Eye" Watson

 

8. Brian “Sad Eye” Watson - Sad Eye is not your typical streetball player. His bite overshadows his bark, something not found very often. The forward dominated opponents on the offensive end, displaying a complete scoring arsenal. He had handle, a post up game, multitude of 1-on-1 moves, pure jump shot and athleticism. “He’s just a 6-5, do everything type of dude,” offers Philly native ex-pro Alvin Williams. “He could shoot, penetrate, jump, just everything. He owned all the playgrounds down here. He’s definitely one of the top, if not the top playground legend out here.” By the time Sad Eye was 14, he was the best player in the city, as he helped his junior high school (Strawberry Mansion) beat the undefeated varsity at Ben Franklin HS. Watson went on to star at Ben Franklin averaging over 20 points and 14 rebounds as a junior. The beginning of Sad’s senior season UNLV was in heavy pursuit of the forward. Then a few months into the season, Watson quit the team. Looking back, he says “I just was bored with it,” He admits he had no interest in playing at school, no dreams of the NBA. Ex-pro Cuttino Mobley used to invite “Sad Eye” to fly out to Houston and play pickup with the Rockets players in the early 2000’s. 90% of the time Watson turned down the invitation. “I’m just anti-social,” says Sad Eye,Watson quit playing because he lost interest and the game wasn’t fun. He never thought of himself as a good defender, for that reason he refuses to take credit for his talents. If you still don't believe he's that good heres a clip from Watson in the 35 and over league.

 

Curt "Trouble" Smith

 

7. Curt “Trouble” Smith - Trouble was a standout high school star that averaged over 25 points and 8 assists at Coolidge high as a senior. He was chosen to play in the 1989 Capital Classic All-American game with players like Kenny Anderson. The 5-9 Smith matched up head-to-head with Kenny Anderson, outplaying Anderson it was Smith who took home the MVP trophy. Initially he committed to Temple but he failed to qualify academically for a division one school. He ended up on the west coast at Compton community college where he dominated opponents for two years. He spent his final two seasons at Division 1 Drake University, where he was named Missouri Valley conference player of the year as a junior (92-93). During that season the guard averaged 21 points, 5 assists and 3 steals. Once his college career was over Smith played in a bevy of professional leagues including France, Italy, Israel,Finland, the IBA, the IBL and the USB. In 1997–98, Smith was named the Most Valuable Player of the USBL. Aside from his accomplishments in organized basketball Smith has been a legend on the DMV playground circuit. In 2003 Steve Francis brought a team full of pros down to Goodman league to take on Curt Smith’s team. Trouble came out on top putting up 62 points to Francis 59 and winning the game 121-120. A no nonsense player who always played to win, he never lost a game in Annapolis’ summer league. He would electrify the crowds with his variety of moves and long jumpers raining out of the sky. By far the most dominating playground scorer to ever come out of the nation’s capital. could shoot from anywhere and was unstoppable in the post, he was smart and was as tough as they come. Heres a clip of him destroying the And1 team.

 

Richard "Pee Wee" Kirkland

 

6. Richard “Pee Wee” Kirkland - He is something of NYC drug and basketball Legend. Days were spent embarrassing foes on the hardwood and nights were spent wheeling & dealing in his Bentley. Kirkland was called by Sports Illustrated "the fastest man in college basketball”. He grew up as rivals with future All-NBA performer Nate “Tiny” Archibald, their rivalry continued well into their 30’s. Kirkland was the constant point guard while on the floor. He was said to be a typical New York guard with flashy handle, vision and the ability to score around the basket. Some Harlem natives compared his playing style to that of Walt “Clyde” Frazier. He attended Charles Evans Hughes High School in Manhattan, and was an All-City guard. Next he attended Kittrell community college in North Carolina, and averaged 41 points per game. After community college he attended Norfolk State University and played with future NBA star Bob Dandridge. Norfolk’s coach would later admit that John Wooden was sending scouts to Norfolk to try and get Kirkland to transfer to UCLA. In 1969 he was drafted by the Chicago Bulls with the fourth pick in the thirteenth round. The Bulls offered Pee Wee 40k for a one year contract to which Pee-Wee replied “Thanks, but no thanks. I had over 200k in my apartment what was I going to do with the Bulls 40k?”. He received a telegram after his 28th birthday from Knicks coach Red Holzman pleading for him to tryout.

 

Hook Mitchell

 

5. Demetrius “Hook” Mitchell - Mitchell was the biggest playground legend the bay area has ever produced. At 5’9 with pogo stick legs, Hook Mitchell ran the bay area for well over a decade. His game has often been compared to that of Steve Francis or Nate Robinson. Known for his insane speed and jumping ability, he had an all around game that included deep range on his shot. Mitchell first teamed up with Antonio Davis to star at McClymonds high in Oakland. The tandem had great success as Davis signed a scholarship at UTEP. The two battled Skyline High where future NBA players Gary Payton and Greg Foster teamed up. Hook showcased his talent at the JUCO level but the classroom kept him out of division one ball. Urban legend has it “Hook” could dunk at the age of 13 when he was a mere 5’2. Mitchell is the first man to make jumping over cars a realistic idea. Crowds would gather at parks like Mosswood or Bushrod to watch Hook’s air show. Often people would challenge him to do dunks they didn’t think humanly possible, betting for serious cash in the process. He was notorious for winning amateur dunk contests around California. Just before the 2000 ASG Hook was arrested for robbery and spent the better part of a decade behind bars. Jason Kidd and Gary Payton both agreed that he was the best player to come out of Oakland. Drew Gooden claims he saw Hook jump over a car with a 10 speed bike on top, yes you read that right. Check out a few of his high flying dunks.

 

Billy "The Kid" Harris

 

4. Billy “The Kid” Harris - Standing at only 6’2 Harris was a prolific long range shooter. An all city selection in high school at Dunbar, he played college ball at Northern Illinois. At NIU he averaged over 24 points as a senior including a 38 point game in Madison Square Garden. Billy was drafted and cut by the Chicago Bulls. He played on year for San Diego of the ABA averaging 8 points per game. But his game was never made for organized ball. Scoop Jackson of the magazine SLAM later dubbed him the best playground basketball player ever. "No one has ever claimed to have seen, heard about or witnessed Billy having a bad game. Not one story, not one game," wrote Jackson. Harris was a star on Chicago’s playground typically holding court for an entire day. Grew up playing with Jabari Parkers dad Sonny on the Chicago playgrounds. A regular at Chicago Summer tournaments his team won the summer league tournament 7 years in a row. At the age of 35 he challenged Michael Jordan to a game of one-on-one, to which Jordan replied “no thanks”. A Great passer he was also blessed with good speed and bounce. His best skill was his shooting as many have called him the best shooter Chicago has ever produced. Teammates and contemporaries swear he had range on his jump shot out to 40 feet.

 

Joe "The Destroyer" Hammond

 

3. Joe “The Destroyer” Hammond - Legend has it he scored 50 points in one half against Julius Erving at the Rucker. In 1977 he returned to the Rucker Tournament after a four year absence to set a league record with 73 points in a game. The 6’2 guard was a thin and athletic wing who possessed big time shooting ability. Virtually unguardable one-on-one, Hammond gave pros like Tiny Archibald, Julius Erving, Ron Boone a serious run for their money. The Destroyer had his chances to play in the NBA. His reputation was so great, the Lakers team traveled to Harlem to watch him play in the summer. The Lakers took him in the fifth round of the 1971 Draft because Wilt Chamberlain wanted him. They offered him a contract, but he turned it down because there wasn't a no-cut-clause. Other reports say he was too busy making money in the drug game. A couple years later, a pro scout came to see Joe play. Instead of showcasing his ability he chose to ride his hot streak in dice instead. Eventually, Hammond turned to drugs, and ended up serving time in a prison in New York City. The Destroyer set a variety of Rucker scoring records including single game record 82 points in a game. "Pound-for-pound, Joe Hammond was the greatest player ever to come out of Harlem." Says Don Adams, Taft High School coach.

 

The Goat

 

2. Earl “The Goat” Magnigut - Kareem Abdul Jabbar was asked on the day of his retirement, who was the greatest player he had ever played against? Kareem answered, "It would have to be Goat, Earl 'the Goat' Manigault." The Goat played during the basketball revolution of New York City in the 1960s. “The Goat” had a tough time with drugs starting with his expulsion from high school for smoking marijuana. He finished high school at Laurinburg Institute in North Carolina, averaging 31 points and 13 rebounds per game. Magnigut received recruiting letters from North Carolina, Duke, Indiana and hundreds of other college basketball programs. He ended up choosing a historically black college where he only lasted one semester. At 6’1 Magnigut had ridiculous leaping ability, he dunked on some of the NBA’s best shot blockers including Jabbar, Connie Hawkins and Willis Reed. “He reminded me a lot of David Thompson,” says Jabbar. He could really explode above the rim.” Of course he had a signature dunk, the double dunk. He allegedly would dunk the ball, catch it with his left hand, switch it to the right hand, and jam it back through. He showcased his leaping ability by pulling dollar bills off the top of the backboard to win bets around New York. Devoted much of his jumping ability to the fact that he wore ankle weights for much of his youth. Manigault started the Goat Tournament, a summer tourney that would feature NBA stars such as Bernard King and Mario Elie. Eventually he developed a herion addiction and faced jail time. He died in 1998 in his hometown of New York City.

 

Raymond Lewis

 

1. Raymond Lewis - Jerry Tarkanian once remarked "Raymond Lewis was the greatest basketball player I ever saw”. Considered the best high school guard in Southern California over the past 40 years. The 6’1 guard had a superb handle for his time and was an intense competitor. He was an elite shooter and could finish amongst the trees around the basket. Lewis won three consecutive California State titles in 1969, 1970 and 1971. During that time he led the Verbum Dei Eagles to an 84-4 record and was named CIF Player of the Year in '70 and ’71. He famously torched a group of LA Lakers for 52 points in a summer league game while still in high school. Lewis chose to attended Cal-State LA, where he scored 73 points against UC Santa Barbara as a college freshman. Lewis left Cal-St. LA after his sophomore season and was drafted in the first round (18th overall). He went to summer league and then training camp with the Philadelphia Sixers. Then a legendary scrimmage in Philadelphia saw Lewis drop 60 points on number one pick Doug Collins. After the scrimmage Lewis demanded a bigger contract to which the Sixers replied he needed to mature for another year. Lewis became a fixture in summer and street ball leagues across southern California. In the 1983 summer pro league he faced off with NBA defensive player of the year Michael Cooper, Lewis gave him 56. Raymond Lewis was one of the greatest players I've ever seen ... nobody can change my mind about that," said basketball pioneer Sonny Vaccaro. For more on Lewis check out this short video.

 Honorable Mention: Marques Haynes, "Jumpin" Jackie Jackson, Herman "Helicopter" Knowings, James "Fly" williams, Jack "Black Jack" Ryan, Larry "Bone collector" Williams, Freeway Williams, Raymond "Circus" King, John Staggers, Tyrone "Alimoe" Evans, Malloy "The Future" Nesmith, Sam Worthen, Antoine Joubert, Arthur Sivels, Dwayne "Legend" Rogers, God Shammgod