EBC Final: Black Wall Street vs. Terror Squad
If you don’t know by now, the acronym “EBC” stands for “Entertainers’ Basketball Classic”, and it always has. That said, some argue that, with the league now composed almost exclusively of pros, semi-pros, soon-to-be-pros and ex-pros, the “E” shouldn’t remain, with the entertainers now few and far between on the court. Certain purists also believe that, with the game resembling the isolation-based, trigger-happy play of streetball rather than traditional basketball, the “B” should be dropped or replaced as well. There are even haters who dispute the “C”, arguing that the atmosphere of the tournaments of years past has long since evaporated, with Kingdome taking its place as New York’s top tourney.
To those three groups, the EBC had one thing to say on Monday evening: Shut the f*ck up. Pettiness and miscommunication may have kept us waiting through the weekend, but what the final finally brought us was most certainly CBE: Classic Basketball Entertainment.
After the disastrous display of disorganisation on Thursday (which I still can’t discuss without insulting people’s mothers) resulting in the postponement of the playoff decider, the fans were more than a little unsettled to see only one Black Wall Street player (for the record, J.J., a.k.a. “Dy-no-mite”) on the court at the scheduled tip time. Given that the previous cancellation is largely held to have been caused by Fat Joe’s side, there was widespread talk that BWS would be returning the disrespectful gesture by holding the team out and pushing the contest yet further back.
However, from HoopsVibe’s usual seats in the uppermost row of the VIP bleachers (the penthouse, if you will), it was possible to spot the rest of The Game’s squad posted up on the benches behind the adjoining handball court, waiting for the right moment to make their grand entrance.
When they eventually do (and “eventually” is the right word here – they eschewed “stylishly late” in favour of “barely-beat-the-forfeit-clock late”), there’s the usual drama that accompanies a final in the park, with the players, coaches, officials and a hundred-strong cast of friends, family and hangers-on disputing everything from the way each team will shoot in the first half to the ball they’ll be using to the proportions of red Gatorade and blue Gatorade on either bench. Although I invented the last one, I’m assuming something similarly trivial had to have been discussed to delay the game for so long.
With the park packed to capacity (and then some), the two sides managed to settle their issues and take the court to the audible delight of the crowd, much of which had been in the park since the gates opened at four o’clock. With a numb butt from the bleacher seating, a headache from four hours of pop-rap and an empty stomach due to a lack of snack food on sale in the park, I was as weary as anyone come game time.
The surge of energy in the stands when the ball went up, however, quickly reminded me to quit being such a bitch and remember that cramped conditions, mysterious odours and splinters in your rump are all part of the fun of watching outdoor basketball. The clientele in attendance didn’t hurt much either, with Kareem Reid, Ron Artest, Jerome Williams (yes, the Junk Yard Dog himself), Garnett Thompson, James Williams and Junie Sanders all ready to get it on.
The Terror Squad showed why they were already three-time chip-winners in the opening minutes of the game, Kareem “Best Kept No Longer a Secret” Reid doing the damage early with a twenty-footer and a dish to a streaking JYD, who showed his NBA form with a thunderous two-hander that gave his side an 8-3 lead. They soon learnt the hard way that no team with Junie “General Electric” Sanders is ever out of contention, though, as the levelheaded veteran pulled his crew back into it with a pair of free throws and a nifty turnaround in quick succession.
The first true highlight of the game came shortly thereafter, with Black Wall Street’s Sean catching his man sleeping with a monstrous facial that gave his boys both the lead and the momentum. T Squad coach Mousey decided moments later that a technical foul was required to send a message to his team (believe me: Mousey doesn’t get techs by accident), and it seemed to do the trick as they erased a six-point deficit in the space of two minutes to tie things up again at 18-18.
With neither team wanting to come out of the interval trailing, the game turned into a war of attrition, the scores standing level at 22 and 24 apiece before a free throw and late bucket by Black Wall Street gave them a tenuous 27-25 advantage at the first-half buzzer.
BWS looked to be in control of the second half following two quick scores by GE around a big block by Garnett, but, as ever, the Energizer Bunnyesque Kareem Reid once again broke the game open with a coast-to-coast excursion, finishing with a trademark lefty layup in traffic. Ron Artest took his cue from Mousey to step up at that point, fighting his way into the paint to draw consecutive fouls which he turned into a quartet of made free throws that resulted in a 33-33 game with plenty of time remaining.
Ron Artest, Sr., sitting a row in front of me, looked content at this point, which was a very good thing in my books. Although he was cool when I’d asked him about Danny’s pro status prior to the game, I was still instinctively nervous to see an Artest in the stands. While he was approachable and mellow in demeanour, it was a tad tricky to get past the fact that he was built like a Monstar on steroids and looked young enough to pass for the third Artest brother. Thankfully for us, the only scuffling took place in the “Rick James Section” of the main stand, with the instigator swiftly being dealt with by the attendant police officers. (Shouts to the five-oh for taking care of the situation so efficiently there.)
The game continued to be a seesaw affair for much of the second half, with six-point runs twice being matched by the other side to result in five quick lead changes. Even as someone who had no emotional investment in either team, the tension of the situation was clearly getting to me, with my game notes for this stretch looking more like the trail of a drunken ant than the basketball shorthand I devised for this very tournament (which, to give you an idea of the EBC style of play, contains four characters for crossovers, two for trash talk and one for a court invasion).
It was at that point that Black Wall Street also started to feel the pressure, making uncharacteristic turnovers on offence while allowing Kareem and Ron-Ron open looks from their favourite spots. Although they soon put a stop to the former’s antics, they couldn’t keep Reid from making it to the charity stripe, where yet another pair of makes gave TS a six-point cushion at 51-45.
A timeout by Black Wall Street didn’t seem to do much to dampen the Squad’s spirits as The Beast used an inbounds play with five minutes remaining to get a little playful, throwing the ball off a hapless defender’s back to himself before dunking for an and-one play that made it 54-47. A very questionable (read: crappy) goaltending call on a Mookie trifecta brought the boys in black back into it, but Terror Squad’s DP – the unquestionable player of the game in the semis – was simply too determined to let his squad relinquish the lead. With the fifth foul by Garnett Thompson sending him to the bench for good with a shade over two minutes showing on the game clock, Terror Squad came one step closer to victory, with DP’s continued hard work inside helping make it a reality.
A steal that led to a violent fastbreak hammer by Ron Artest gave them their first chance of taking a double-digit lead, with only another triple by Mookie breaking up their run on the way to doing so. Fittingly, it was a brace of free throws by DP that awarded them their first ten-point advantage, a string of misfires from beyond the arc securing the lead. Fat Joe was already on the court to see DP make his final four attempts from the line in the closing sixteen seconds, and only a desperation three in the dying moments by Black Wall Street made a dent in the scoresheet thereafter.
After eight weeks of action, three days of waiting and forty minutes of battle, Terror Squad reclaimed their throne with a 72-59 victory, also becoming the first team to vanquish the mighty Black Wall Street in the process. With the championship jackets, six-foot trophies and final MVP award (given to a deserving DP) distributed, big cheese Greg Marius warmly thanked the crowd, sponsors and organisers, signalling the end of yet another successful season in the famous Rucker Park.
Oh, and if you didn’t know, “EBC” still stands for “Entertainers’ Basketball Classic”.