"You shovel the snow?"
One kid looks kind of like maybe he has.
It's about passion, about the legacy of the city game here. Brooklyn can claim top honors for the street game, can rightfully say that it has more hoops heritage in its parks than any other place has. More than Harlem, the Bronx, Manhattan's West 4th Street, Philly, Chicago, L.A., anywhere.
"Only lacking Lew Alcindor and Tiny [Archibald]," says New York City native and longtime sportswriter and hoops expert Peter Vecsey. Those two stars were from Manhattan and the Bronx, respectively.
But Brooklyn can match that and raise it with Lenny Wilkens, Jim McMillian, Connie Hawkins, Roger Brown, Doug Moe, World B. Free, Jackie Jackson, Bill Burwell, Billy Cunningham, Phil Sellers, Carmelo Anthony, Sam Perkins, Chris Mullin, Pearl Washington, Stephon Marbury, Sebastian Telfair, the King brothers, and on. Guess who else was born in Brooklyn. Yep, Michael Jordan.
"The cradle of hoops?" says former Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni when I ask him. "I think people from Indiana and, oh, West Virginia might be a little upset with that." D'Antoni, a native of Mullens, W.Va., means devotees of Larry Bird and Jerry West. No problem. Even St. Croix can claim a superstar, Tim Duncan.
But we're talking a larger place, a style, the sense you get when you feel the flow rolling over the beat, when history, surroundings and talent converge to form music.
And that was Fly Williams. Rap is boasts, taunts, threats, barbaric yawps. It didn't exist when Fly was scoring, as he did, 100 points in a park game, dropping 45 for one side, then switching teams at half and putting up 55 for the other. But his rhythmic announcement to the world could be heard all over New York City. Just as Connie Hawkins's could be heard. Once, at the Rucker tournament in Harlem, Hawkins took on Wilt Chamberlain. "The Hawk went up—he was still way out beyond the foul line—and started floating toward the basket," says a former college player in The City Game. "Wilt, taller and stronger, stayed right with him—but then the Hawk hook-dunked the ball right over Chamberlain. He hook-dunked!"
The legends of Brooklyn street ball are there for the new Nets to honor, to exalt, to feel emboldened by.
"You see, back in the day, it wasn't the park that made the players," says Harlem legend and strayed court genius Pee Wee Kirkland. "The players made the park."