Try as we may to find it, there is no definition which quite covers the one-man phenomenon that took a game with a half-century of history and remixed it in a single summer. How could mere words describe someone who brings capacity crowds to their feet in anticipation of what he might do? Which adjectives could accurately describe a player who routinely crosses defenders off their feet and fans off their seats? What combinations of letters on a page could capture the feeling in a park, gym or arena when a slightly-built six-footer does something so astonishing with a piece of synthetic leather that spectators rush the floor?
Only two words have ever come close, and for the proper effect they must be yelled repeatedly into a microphone, each time more forcefully.
He turns necks with his fakes, ankles with his handles, and stomachs with an arsenal of downright filthy moves that drop cats so hard that some of them consider not getting back up. With the ability to break a game open in three dribbles and shut it down with the flick of a wrist, it’s no surprise that Sauce has become one of the most popular figures in the history of streetball. Now, some five years after he first burst onto the scene, there are Hot Sauce imitators the world over. His moves can be seen everywhere from South Beach to the south of France to South Africa to the South Seas. If there were a goal on the South Pole, you’d see kids throwing the ball in their parkas and pulling Hypnotizers on the ice.
One day, your grandchildren will flick through an old magazine or stumble across a website and ask you about the man born Philip Champion and the amazing things he did on the basketball court. When they do, tell them how he shook dudes out of their shoes in five continents. Let them know how the entire planet tried his tricks. Make sure they realise how truly sick he was with the rock in hands.
Just don’t try to define him.
Read on for the first third of our exclusive interview with Hot Sauce and his agent, Mark Edwards. Check back later this week for part two, available only at HoopsVibe.com.
C.Y. Ellis: Before we get into things properly, could you just clear up the And 1 situation for your fans who don’t know what the deal is? What is Hot Sauce’s current status with regards to the And 1 organization?
Mark Edwards: Right now, he doesn’t really have a relationship with the company. There are some talks with the company, so who knows what could happen in the future? There hasn’t been any bad blood on our side from a business standpoint. I don’t think Hot Sauce liked the DVD that they came out with. They were saying things on the DVD, but we’re positive, so we don’t really address that. If they want to put out negative stuff about him, that’s cool, but he’s not a negative person, so he doesn’t really deal with that.
Hot Sauce: I know I’m doing my thing whatever, so I don’t have to worry about why they’re saying negative stuff about me. Other than that, I’m just going to keep it moving and do bigger things.
CYE: We’ve heard conflicting stories on the matter. What was your main motivation to leave?
Sauce: Basically, I guess I was getting gigs, because outside of And 1, they didn’t want you to do nothing besides them. Other than that, Mark got me a lot of jobs outside of And 1.
Mark: We felt that he needed to expand, and I felt that he was on top of his game as far as marketing. I felt like the iron was hot, so it was time for us to strike. His popularity was going through the roof, and I just felt like the company was moving in a direction that we didn’t too much like. The company itself was great; I just felt like, on the court, they were trying to get away from the fun-loving basketball that we started playing back in 2000, and they wanted to make it real serious, and I didn’t think real serious basketball was engaging. If you want real serious basketball, you can go watch the NBA games or watch a college game or watch a high school game. What these guys did was that they entertained, and it wasn’t like a clown. These guys were still scoring a hundred-plus points a game, blowing people out, fastbreaking and dunking and smiling, and the kids, they’d come to love that. If you start bringing halfcourt, back-down basketball…it was just like, “Nah, that’s not what we here for.”
CYE: A lot of people have said that they feel the And 1 tour is weaker now that you’re gone, that it’s not as entertaining. What do you think?
Sauce: That’s probably from their point of view. I did bring a lot of flair, a lot of excitement to the game. I think that was a little part of it. Everybody outside of me as far as individual players, they know their skill-level; they know what they know how to do. But as far as the crowd goes, I think I was a part of it.
CYE: We hear you recently finished shooting a movie. Tell us a little something about the project.
Sauce: Oh, it was crazy working with the guys that were experienced with the movies. By me coming in and sharing my basketball skills and them sharing their acting skills, we came as one and we built something.
CYE: What’s the main idea behind the movie?
Sauce: It’s a streetball movie set in Detroit, and it’s about an underground streetball league that goes on. I’m like the main nemesis to everyone in the movie. My name is “Jewelz” and the name of my team is “Platinum”. I drive the big truck like Shaquille O’Neal’s one, the big diesel truck, but with the luxury cabin. I wear a lot of ice, a lot of jewels, and I have a crazy streetball team. I play against other teams for money, and there’s a betting line going on. And they built this basketball court in an abandoned train station. All the windows have been busted out and it looks real eerie from the outside, but when you come inside, it has a fully-functional basketball court with a floor, scoreboard, D.J., crowd, everything. It’s hype, and it’s like a love story. And the basketball moves were crazy. We have some of the highest leapers in the game involved. High Riser, he’s been with us about five years. Ever since high school, he’s been running with us.
CYE: Rumour has it that you’ve also been filming for your own DVD. What can you tell us about that?
Sauce: We’ve got a couple of projects coming out. We’ve got the Killer Crossover Tour DVD; that’s going to be out early next year. We’ve got five, six years’ worth of footage that we’ve been saving, and we’re about to unleash it. We put it off because we wanted to make sure we got the right deal and the right marketing behind it. I’m also going to be doing a streetball workout DVD where I’m showing the dribbling drills. It’s going to be hot, because there’s going to be music behind it, and you’re going to see how the moves actually work in the game. I’ll demonstrate how to work on a move, showing different skills, how to work on this crossover and that crossover, and then I’m going to show the effects of it in the game. We’re going to have a workout with High Riser showing how he works on his vertical leap and how he got a fifty-inch vertical leap.
CYE: What else is in the pipeline?
Mark: We’re working on a website, and in a month or two, if anybody has emails they want to send, they can send it in at HotSauce3.com. Right now, just be looking out for the Killer Crossover Tour. We’re going to Brazil in February and Dubai in January, so we’ll be overseas.
CYE: You’re currently not affiliated with any streetball crew. Do you plan to stay that way or do you see yourself joining anyone in the future?
Sauce: I’m probably going to build my tour up, and do more acting. I’m cool with the guys on the west coast, YPA and them, but I don’t think I’m going to join anybody. I’ve got my own crew, Legends of the Blacktop, guys like Silk, Baby Shaq, High Riser, I’ll Be Right Back, Violator, Springs from Detroit. We got a bunch of guys running with us, and we’re getting our management thing up, managing streetball players. I’ve got my own company helping to produce the tour called “Hot Sauce Entertainment”.
CYE: A lot of your New York fans are wondering when you’re going to hit Rucker Park. Do you plan to play in the EBC or a similar competition any time soon?
For Sauce’s answer to this and many more questions, check back later this week for the second part of the interview. If you want to hear Sauce’s opinion on the current And 1 player who really isn’t all he’s made out to be, you won’t want to miss it.