And 1 Mixtape Tour 2005 Miami
The men and women congregating outside the arena cast their eyes skyward, worriedly inspecting the murk above. Miami had recently been issued with a hurricane warning, and the grey, muggy atmosphere created a noticeable tension in the crowd as they queued, quietly murmuring to one another. Children pointed to the ominous clouds as they rolled across the heavens, and parents fixed their eyes on the television screens, anxiously awaiting news on the storm.
Hurricane Dennis wasn’t the only inexorable power passing through South Florida that weekend, however. These folks were also anticipating the arrival of another force of nature capable of blowing people away, tearing up the court, and sending anyone who gets in the way to the emergency room. This mass was gathered for the sole purpose of witnessing first-hand the damage caused by the squad of elite ballers assembled to wreak havoc on the unfortunate souls who find themselves in the danger zone.
Before the big show could begin, however, there was the matter of the open run to handle. Due to the inclement conditions outside, the dozens of amateurs who laced up their sneakers with the hope of making the game that evening were forced inside, where the preliminary scrimmages were held on the main floor of the arena. Playing on the hallowed hardwood graced by innumerable greats didn’t seem to do much for the quality of play, however, as team after team of awkward players stumbled onto the court for a few minutes of fumbled tricks, incomplete alley-oops, misdribbles and airballs before being unceremoniously ushered off the floor, heckled by the announcer as they shuffled away.
It was forty minutes before an impressive specimen made his way to the floor, immediately breaking free from the pack and hammering home a right-hander from fifteen inches above the rim, injecting some life into the sleepy crowd. The lithe leaper struck again several minutes later, packing down a slick double-fisted dunk to the delight of those in attendance, who were now very much awake. Although he narrowly missed what would have been a spectacular reverse alley-oop, he had shown enough to earn himself the coveted bracelet.
An hour or so later, he confirmed his spot in the line-up for that evening’s game when he won an impromptu dunk-off organized by Spyda, who barked orders at the contestants as he wandered about the court in a pair of worn flip-flops. This anonymous baller took first place by tomahawking as he vaulted another hopeful from the open run he had positioned a step below the dotted line, drawing the loudest cheer of the afternoon.
With the open run selections and the player introductions aside, the stage was set for the game itself, which tipped off amid a sea of noise. From the second the ball went up, the game was a non-stop sequence of disgusting plays, with every player on the floor breaking out incredible moves the moment their fingers touched the better-than-leather. For twenty minutes, the action played like a poorly edited highlight package, with mere moments passing between each Did you see that? move. Perhaps the nicest play of the first half was the beautiful through-the-legs alley-oop pass from The Pharmacist to Spyda, who finished with his trademark dunk, inverting himself and crossing his legs in front of the rim, looking something like a giant bat as he hung upside-down on the basket. Also noteworthy was Baby Shaq’s hesitation move combined with a subtle head-fake, which sent his defender flying past his shoulder as he made his way towards the bucket for an easy two.
A.O. made the highlight reel several times with consistently accurate dimes, displaying the sort of court vision that simply can’t be taught. Time after time he located an open man who couldn’t possibly have been in his line of vision, at several points dishing out no-lookers to players who didn’t even realize they were all alone under the bucket. Practice all you want, kids, but you only have to watch A.O. play for five minutes to realise that point guards are born, not made.
Displaying strong fundamentals elsewhere was Half-Man Half-Amazing, who spent most of his time on the floor putting in work down low, muscling his way into the paint and finishing with those tricky ten-footers that so many NBA big men have difficulty hitting. Further from the goal, The Professor dazzled with his ball-on-a-string antics, toying with his defenders as he sent them this way and that with deceptive dribbling, spin moves and foot-fakes. High Octane also put in a solid performance, cleaning the glass and putting points on the board from all over the court, preventing his opponents from doing likewise with his aggressive defence and hard-nosed hustle.
The second half picked up where the first left off as the players all sought to one-up the last astonishing move. However, as time ran down, it became increasingly clear that we were going to have a real game on our hands, with Ballaholic and The Air Up There, a player selected from the Dallas open run, wowing the audience with chin-on-the-rim dunks that stuck a middle finger up at gravity. With around five minutes left in the game and their deficit decreasing, Ballaholic gathered an offensive rebound at shoulder-height with his right hand and, still in mid-air, violently powered it through for easily the most spectacular put-back dunk I have ever witnessed in person.
For the next few minutes the two sides exchanged blows as Team And 1’s twenty-one point lead evaporated entirely, leaving the squads standing neck-and-neck with around three minutes left. Now it was more a contest of lay-ups, jumpers and post moves rather than the exhibition game it had been for the first thirty-five minutes, although even in the clutch certain players couldn’t deny themselves the occasional attempt at shaking their man out of his shoes.
Shortly following the one-minute mark, the “visiting” team’s point guard stuck a dagger in the collective heart of Team And 1 with a pull-up triple, creating a three-point cushion which his opponents couldn’t lessen on their subsequent offence. Instead, they allowed The Air Up There to leak out on the break for a vicious alley-oop spike, causing the crowd to celebrate so loudly that it looked for a moment as if the roof would start raining rivets. With a comfortable lead and seconds left on the clock, he ran into the front row of the crowd, high-fiving anyone within reach and generally screaming as if he’d won the lottery.
The buzzer sounded, and Team And 1 traipsed off the floor as highlights played on the big screen high above, loud music spilling from the giant speakers beside them. Beaten but not defeated, they slowly made their way to the locker-room, where they showered, dressed and shot the breeze for a few minutes before ambling to the car park, deep beneath the arena.
The tour buses pulled away as the sky above rumbled menacingly, the heavy clouds threatening to fire hot rain over the city at any moment. The storm within the building was over, and now outside another was growing as the And 1 ballers rolled on to the next city, where thousands more wait in their path of destruction.
- C.Y. Ellis