The Rucker Park rabble is in full effect as I walk past the police who have become a permanent fixture outside the entrance Monday through Thursday nights. Whether it’s the muggy atmosphere, eardrum-splitting hype music or Certified’s cornea-burning orange uniforms, something has the streetball faithful noisy long before the game is scheduled to tip off. When a pair of young ladies take the court and break out some dance moves which are almost certainly illegal in Utah, the volume goes up another notch, and I wonder if the crowd has the energy to keep it up much longer.
They soon show that they can, however, and a triple from Certified’s “T” in the game’s opening seconds draws a loud cheer. Both teams manage to maintain the noise levels in the stands by swishing two jumpers apiece, the first miss of the game coming when Hot 97’s Ray has his layup swatted into the baseline bleachers. However, he quickly atones for his embarrassment, icing a fifteen-footer to give his team a 6-2 lead.
Unfortunately for Hot 97, their opposition decide to take the gloves off three minutes into the contest, and from now on the play goes all one way. Overcoming their four-point deficit with two second-chance scores and taking the lead on a fastbreak layup, they then put their paint on lockdown, scaring Ray into launching his next shot attempt, a running one-hander, over the top of the backboard and into the basket stanchion. At the other end, Certified run a trick pick-and-roll play to find Jay open under the hoop, who hammers it home as if the rim had said something impolite about his mother.
Things go from bad to worse for Hot 97 in the next few minutes as former Celtic and Supersonic Joe Forte takes his chance to show the spectators why he made it to the league. Isolated on the left wing, he throws in a wicked crossover that freezes his man to the floor before dancing between two help defenders and throwing down a gorgeous tomahawk that nearly starts a riot on Certified’s bench.
Following this up with a Forte trifecta, a shake-and-make from T and a transition alley-oop, Certified very much have the game under control. Forte again shows his NBA-type talent with a ballhandling display that ends with an eighteen-foot fall-away and, shortly afterwards, a no-look dish that finds an open teammate for a layup. While Forte’s decision to put down a plain two-hander while wide open on the break doesn’t please the crowd, he’s not too concerned, having already scored nine points to help his team rack up a 26-10 lead. More sloppy play from Hot 97 sees them fall even further behind despite managing to hit a three and a two on consecutive plays, and they end the half down 36-17 after a buzzer-beating bankshot by Certified.
Not happy with an already conclusive lead, Joe Forte comes out of the break hungry, hitting back-to-back triples to put his squad up by twenty-five with another eighteen minutes to play. Despite that The Politician is insisting on calling him “John Forte”, he continues to move the ball well, setting a tone which allows his team to keep scoring even when he finally takes a break.
Still, one man’s personal mission to regain lost respect isn’t enough to keep the game sensible, and soon it degenerates into classic blowout basketball, with turnovers outnumbering assists for the rest of the contest. While a huge one-hander from Hot 97’s Toby (whom The Politician refers to as “Kunta Kinte” for the rest of the night) manages to briefly turn the crowd’s attention from a dance-off in the main stand, little else is able to do the same for the remainder, and the game is called with a few seconds left on the clock, Certified running out 72-44 winners.