Tuesday, March 11, 2008

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Taking Basketball to the Streets

With hip-hop music blaring and an emcee for an announcer, an urban basketball team called the Platinum Streetballers played a fast-paced, in-your-face game against members of the Harrisonburg Men’s League.

Players on both teams dunked, dribbled and danced around the court while a 200-person crowd cheered them on. The ref sported blue jeans, a sideways baseball cap, an upturned shirt collar and a bandanna on his arm while everyone else — even some of the players — wore enough “bling” to put even De Beers to shame.

“That’s how you do it, baby!” cheered Dewey Jackson, the Platinum team’s emcee, who is known to his crew and on the radio as “Formula.” “Yeah, baby!”

But double-dribbles aside, the event was more than just good New York-style fun.

Friday’s game was actually a recruitment tool and fundraiser for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, officials said. From now until May, Platinum is “performing” 13 free shows for Boys & Girls Clubs up and down the East Coast, Jackson said.

Friday’s show in Harrisonburg was the third stop on their tour.

“We aren’t doing anything else on a Friday night,” joked Joe Turner, a 23-year-old forward for the Harrisonburg team. “We’re just here to support the kids and have a good time.”

Street Ball

Having a good time by showing off is at the heart of streetball, Jackson said.

Streetball is essentially an inner-city form of basketball where the rules are relaxed, they said. Players tend to perform lots of flashy ball-handling tricks, such as crossovers and fake-outs, while also talking a little “trash.”

From the feel of Friday’s game, testosterone pumping slam-dunks and high-tossed alley-oops are streetball requirements.

“Usually there’s trash-talking, but they’re not doing that here,” said Katie Burner, a 22-year-old audience member from Luray.

Players call their own fouls, while traveling, double-dribbling and rough hand-checking are acceptable, Jackson said.

“We bring the streets to basketball,” Jackson said. “It’s all about the streets.”

Streetball is growing in popularity, especially since the sport began to be featured on ESPN and in video games in recent years.

Players on the Platinum team hail from cities from all over the Northeast and use nicknames on the court. Hustle, Big Jerry, Black and Johnny Blaze were among Friday’s players.

They Loved It

Although the Platinum Streetballers specialize in their sport and won the game 115-92, the Harrisonburg team held its own.

Derrick Fields of the Harrisonburg team, a crowd favorite, pulled dozens of tricks such as dribbling the ball with his knees and pulling the shirt of his defender over his head.

“Ohhhhhh!” the audience yelled after Fields dunked. They loved it.

“It’s fascinating,” said Wanda Yetter of Elkton. “I feel like I’m at a Harlem Globetrotters game.”

Her son, Brandon, and Nick Clements, 13, of Shenandoah both agreed.

“It’s soooo bizarre,” said Brandon Yetter, 11, who is planning to try out for school basketball next year. “I just want to be out there.”

“It looks funner than regular basketball,” Clements said. “You can play around more and I like that.”


Dazzling Streetball tour at Gila Ridge

Some of the best playground-style players in the world stopped in Yuma on Thursday as part of the 2008 Hustle Up Streetball Tour hosted by Gila Ridge High School.

The tour is made up of current and former members of the And1 Mixtape Tour, who have been seen on ESPN's streetball series. They have been dubbed the Harlem Globetrotters of Generation X.

Dennis "Spyda" Chism goes airborne past the Jardineros Paul Weinkein during the 2008 Hustle Up Streetball Tour in front of a packed house Thursday at Gila Ridge High School.


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