AND1 Mixtape Tour 2006: Miami
“…when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.” – Samuel Johnson
“It’s Miami. What you mean “How do I feel?” – A.O.
A.O.’s commentary on Miami might not have the poetic quality of the famous statement made by Samuel Johnson, but it conveys the message just as effectively. You see, for a streetballer, there is in Miami today all that life can afford. Between the hoops, the heat and the ho…friendly female fans, it’s a ballplayer’s paradise here on this August afternoon in South Florida.
Still, this being and AND1 affair, we could be on the South Pole and there’d still be enough entertainment to make the day. Sitting on the players’ podium at the open run, it not hard to see why the squad seems to have as much fun as the fans. “½ Man, ½ Amazing” is worth the price of admission himself, entertaining baller and spectator alike with his relentless taunting of the young men who try desperately to impress on the open run court. Noted comedian Shane “The Dribbling Machine” adds to the entertainment, taking it on himself to enforce the number one rule of the open run, summarised by Big Mike thusly: “If you get dunked on, you gotta leave the game. If somebody shakes you the floor, you gotta leave the game.” So shall it be.
“Spyda” uses a brief break to take a spin behind the stage on a miniature bicycle fitted with oversized chrome rims, showing no interest in the barely-dressed ladies following his every movement from behind the security barrier. When Shane asks what he’s doing, Spyda turns to the stage and, with a straight face, yells back “I’m riding.” As he later told me, “Spyda does what Spyda do.” I get it now.
The open run comes to an end with an impromptu dunk-off between a skinny local cat going by the handle “Werm” and EBC All-Star “Special EFX” who, like me, has made the trip down from Harlem for this tour stop. EFX sets the tone with a long-armed windmill and a lefty variation on Vince’s elbow-in-the-rim effort, but Werm puts down the toughest slam of the contest with a between-the-legs smash off the bounce. Both are given all-access bracelets, and the action moves from the ninety-something-degree temperatures outside to the interior of the air-conditioned University of Miami Convocation Center.
Since AND1 games are essentially a series of quick plays and isolations, my game recap will reflect that. Let’s hit the notes.
- Spyda gets things going with an alley-oop three seconds in that has the crowd on their feet before many have even taken their seats. Even with Air Up There and Professor in street clothes, I can tell that this is going to be a good one.
- The dunkfest continues a minute later, with Baby Shaq putting down a big two-hander around a pair of flying lefty dunks by an opposing team player known as “Electric”. If you haven’t heard of the guy before, you soon will.
- Special EFX makes a good impression early on, taking off twelve feet from the goal and spiking down a double-clutch, double-fisted dunk that nearly takes the rim off the backboard.
- He might be nicknamed “Helicopter”, but the man looks more like an airborne tank on back-to-back alley-oops. Players with his body type (he’s far stockier than he appears on television) are more often seen banging in the trenches, but Humph gets up there with the best of them.
- Pharmacist goes into his usual routine with fifteen minutes to go before the break (for the record, we’re playing twenty-five-minute halves with a sixty-second shot-clock), using his 5’7’’ frame to his advantage by dribbling mere millimetres from the floor and inviting his man to come down to his level. When he finally does, Pharm catches him with a head-pop, nearly getting him a second time in the same sequence.
- The effect of Hot Sauce’s awaited entrance coupled with the sample of Jadakiss’ “The Champ Is Here” that plays when he checks in is dope beyond belief. Despite telling me before the game that he was “rusty”, he immediately clowns his man with a picture-perfect stiff-leg cross before putting it behind his own back and through his defender’s legs. Hate all you want, but the champ is here, and it’s still Sauce.
- On his very next touch of the ball, Sizzle shows that his previous highlight wasn’t a fluke, setting up with a series of slick shakes before breaking out his patented slow-motion cross, a move you can’t fully appreciate until you’ve seen it up-close. Evoking images of the Bone Collector circa 2003, Sauce then puts the ball between his defender’s legs twice in quick succession, completing a play so ridiculous that my notes for the next few minutes look like the work of a four-year-old with too much sugar in his system.
- Although Sauce is back on the bench with seven minutes left, there’s no time to nap as the action takes to the skies once more. “Circus” – currently the people’s choice to take the contract – spins a full three-sixty before tossing a pass above the rim to Special EFX, who happily bangs another one down.
- Not to be outdone, Helicopter catches a lob from forty feet away for a vicious alley-oop, shooting EFX the “Top that” look. Spec does exactly with a head-to-the-rim oop and a put-back before catching the final pass on a rare double alley-oop play that has the fans in fits.
- Spyda comes correct with his trademark dunk as the seconds tick down to the break. I’ll never get tired of that one.
- Electric snatches back the limelight briefly before the half with a coast-to-coast jam over the majority of the AND1 squad, throwing the ball into the upper tier of the arena afterwards for good measure.
- E-40 takes the court for a performance during the interval, and he doesn’t keep it short. I will, though: Sh*t is horrible. I can’t be sure, but I think it gave me ear cancer.
- Thankfully, the entertainment which follows is more to my liking, with Special EFX and Electric taking the floor for a dunk contest, each being given three attempts to wow the crowd. Electric’s first effort is a double-clutch jam off the bounce, which he follows with a miss and a self-alley-oop windmill. EFX shrugs them off, however, opening with a clockwise windmill that sees his head come perilously close to making friends with the rim. (Given that there’s an enormous plaster on his dome already, I imagine it wouldn’t be the first time if it did.) His second jam is even nastier than the one which preceded it, as he puts down the Vince Carter three-sixty windmill, taking off from behind the backboard and cramming with gusto. A layup would be enough to win it for him at this point, but he keeps the pressure on with his third attempt, a near-perfect recreation of Josh Smith’s 2005 floating windmill.
- The slamathon resumes in the second half, with Special EFX finishing yet another anti-gravity alley-oop seconds after Baby Shaq throws down a huge tomahawk on the break. Electric confirms that good things come in threes shortly thereafter by flying through traffic for a sky-scraping one-hander.
- Hot Sauce repays Circus for holding him on the previous play by crossing him hard to the left, hesitating and completely obliterating his ankles by switching it back to the right. Interestingly, my notes read “Circus clowned” for the play. Is that Freudian, a subconscious pun or just coincidence? Whatever the case, I can tell you one thing it certainly is: boring to you. Let’s move on.
- Unusually, Spyda provides one of the game’s highlights by missing a dunk so powerful that it ends up in my hands at halfcourt. Looking at the stat sheet after the game, I see that they haven’t credited me with the rebound. Haters.
- The champ is back at it after two more hammers from Special EFX, this time murdering his defender with a stiff-leg cross that sends him three feet in the wrong direction. As if that weren’t enough, Sauce follows it up with a shimmy, head-pop and spin move that leaves me screaming curse words like a fat kid who just broke the ring-pull off his can of pudding. For those not familiar with the scoring system, that qualifies as a 9.5 on the Sickter Scale.
- Despite contributing four highlights in five touches, Sauce is subbed off for Pharm with five minutes remaining. Looking back over my game log, I realise that the two haven’t been beside one another on the court or bench at any point in the game. When one stands up, the other sits down. I ask a few folks in the know about it, but nobody’s testimony adds any weight to my conspiracy theory. I suspect the government is involved somehow. Oil may or may not be involved.
- With three minutes remaining, Electric (also known as “Springs”, and for good reason) is announced as the player of the game. It’s at this point that what we’re watching begins to resemble a contest, the score standing at 102-98 in AND1’s favour.
- A crossover and layup by Hot Sauce looks to have put the game out of reach at 104-98, but the opposition team somehow claws their way within two with 28.3 ticks left. AND1 give them a chance to tie things up or take the lead when they commit a backcourt violation (their umpteenth of the game, but the first that the officials call), but Circus loses his nerve and fires up a goofy three that flies three feet wide of the iron.
- Escalade checks in for the final play and is given the ball to dribble out the clock. By the time the scoreboard shows all zeroes, A.O. has begun his ritual undressing, throwing each piece of removed clothing into the crowd. Having heard that he wears my size (a U.S. thirteen if you’re looking to send some free kicks my way), I’m looking to take his sneakers from him. Unfortunately, they end up in the opposite stand in the arms of a kid ten years from being able to wear them. I make a note to steal them from him, but he’s gone before I can finish my business courtside. If I don’t come home with a free pair after the New York tour stop, I’ll officially have beef.
If that hasn’t satisfied your AND1 jones, fret not; we got you. Check back for double- and triple-length interviews with Big Mike, Air Up There, A.O., Hot Sauce, Spyda, Professor, Pharmacist and more, all coming exclusively to HoopsVibe.com this week.