When the players
finally begin warming up, Shumate becomes excited and starts talking about city
games. "Last summer I played against Herman the Helicopter. I was scared,
you know, psyched out. I muscled in and put the ball high on the board for a
layup and the Helicopter pinned it about a foot from the top. He was smiling.
His head was above the rim and his arms were coming over from the other side of
the basket. There are unknown city players, like some who'll be here tonight,
who are fantastic. Pee Wee Kirkland, Pablo Robertson.... Damn! I want to be out
The game begins,
and it is spectacular. The Doctor doesn't show, but there are enough stars,
enough "moves" for everyone. Through it all Shumate yells and laughs.
"Look at that!" he screams.
pip-squeak by the improbable name of Charlie Brown puts a move on Nate
Archibald. It is a twisting, controlled, bulletlike process that would take too
long to describe. The place nearly collapses with noise.
Charlie Brown is
31 years old, 5'10", 145 pounds and played basketball at Jersey City State
about 10 years ago. His team goes on to beat Nate's, and he outpoints
Archibald, the NBA's leading scorer, 35-31. He is, as John says, "a New
York street player."
believe it? Huh, can you?" John asks over and over, as much to himself as
to anyone else.
Queens, is a narrow peninsula of land only three blocks wide in places, flanked
on the north by Jamaica Bay and on the south by the Atlantic Ocean. It is a
quiet, working-class neighborhood filled with salt-streaked clapboard houses
and the refreshing smells of a New England fishing village.
Brian Winters, a
6'4" senior guard-forward at the University of South Carolina, lives here
on Newport Avenue and is part of the waning New York City tradition of
superlative white ballplayers. His favorite playground at 108th Street is the
same one that Bob Cousy and Dick McGuire frequented as kids. It is the court
where Winters worked on his shooting accuracy and rebounding strength through
the summer months of his boyhood.
People close to
the game—coaches, scouts, sportswriters—are saying more and more that
basketball is a black man's game. What they mean is that basketball is a city
game. Queens, and the white neighborhoods in the general area, are places where
basketball is still the game for boys; where you are not a total outcast if you
spend hour after hour at the playground—at the age of 21. At Archbishop Molloy
High School, Winters teamed with Guard Kevin Joyce in classic duels against
conference rival Holy Cross and its two stars, Kevin Stacom (Providence) and
Billy Schaeffer (who starred at St. John's).
Along with '72
Olympian Joyce and Mike Dunleavy of Brooklyn, Winters, who has relatives in
Dublin, comprised one-third of last year's starting Irish Mafia at South
Carolina. Frank McGuire, a New York Irishman himself and onetime coach at St.
John's, likes the city players and makes a point of nabbing the best he can.
Winters is happy enough at South Carolina but feels the place has its
limitations. "I can take only so much of the grits—those Southern boys with
short tan pants, long black socks and starched white shirts. Why can't they say
something besides 'Hey y'all' all the time? Anyway, the guys I hang around with
at school are from New York."
different from most other tough, aggressive players in that he enjoys being
alone. He does not search out the hotbeds of frenzied action. He is not afraid
of such combat. Rather, he is confident of his ability and feels that without
disciplined individual practice he cannot really progress.