These are the real legends of the school yard.
HoopsVibe's Very Quick Call: From Hook Mitchell to The Goat, these are streetball royalty.
5. Rafer Alson
The only reason Alston got a shot to play basketball at the next level in the first place is because of his prowess as arguably the best streetballer in the history of NYC. Playing at three colleges in three years due to discipline problems and off the court issues, Alston’s reputation preceded him and the Bucks signed him out of college. After languishing on the Bucks bench for three years and the Raptors for one he got a break with Miami and was the starting point guard in Dwyane Wade’s rookie season. For the next six years he averaged 12+ points, 5+ assists, 3+ rebounds and almost two steals per game.
Though he had the most success of anyone on this list, he was a streetballer at heart. Check out this link to see a young Rafer in action; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Za8WK9h1PnY
. (Ignore the background music.)
4. Joe Hammond
Without a doubt, Joe Hammond has the best nickname of anyone on this list. “The Destroyer” a nickname he garnered for crushing opposing defenses. Hammond dropped out of school in the ninth grade, so there are no prep recordings of his accomplishments. Instead, he made his name playing in Harlem summer leagues, most notably the Rucker Tournament. In these games Hammond would battle college all Americans and pro players home for the summer.
And at the end of the day, Joe Hammond was recognized as the best basketball player in NYC by scoring 40 or 50 points a game. How else could he get selected by the LA Lakers in the 1971 draft without playing a minute of college ball and barely any in high school? Hammond declined the $50,000 offer because he was making more than that selling drugs and had actually saved up 50k by the age of 15. Hammond continued to sell drugs and eventually got addicted to heroin which caused him to spend multiple years in prison.
But what Hammond will be known for more than ever is his performance in the 1970 Rucker League championship game. After missing the entire first half, Hammond showed up, outscored Julius Erving 50-39, and was named the MVP of the tournament.
3. Earl “The Goat” Manigault
At 6-1 inches tall, “The Goat” had a legendary vertical and could literally put a stack of quarters on top of the backboard and then jump back up to collect them. Manigault garnered his fame by playing at Rucker Park in NYC with NBA legends Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Connie Hawkins and Earl Monroe. At Abdul-Jabbar’s retirement ceremony he was asked who the greatest player he ever played against was. And amazingly he said Earl Manigault. Check out our full length profile of The Goat.
“The Goat” is given credit as the inventor and maybe only person to ever pull off a dunk called the “Double Dunk” successfully. From Wikipedia, “He would dunk the ball, catch it with his left hand, switch the ball to his right hand, bring it back around to the top of the basket and jam it through again, all done while still in the air on a single jump, and without hanging on the rim.”
Just like a lot of other players on this list, drug and discipline problems got the best of his innate basketball abilities and never fully realized his potential.
2. “Pee Wee” Kirkland
How many players can say they turned down an NBA job offer because their “day job” was paying them better? Probably not too many in the last 15 years due to the increases in salary, but even before that it was a rarity. The only problem was that Kirkland’s second job was dealing drugs and something he started doing at the age of 13 to escape poverty. And it was something he became good at quickly.
"I was out there with the cars and the drugs, the jewelry, the entourage. I was giving out money and making it back over again. I had the gangster style, I was the guy who was carrying two guns. That life is like quicksand. I knew right from wrong, but once you're in, it's almost impossible to get out."
Kirkland was a gifted scorer who could put up points in a hurry no matter where he played scoring over 100 points in a game twice and even in prison, scoring 465 points in eight games (58 ppg). Kirkland was an all-around force, and is sometimes credited with inventing the crossover dribble and the spin dribble.
1. Demetrius “Hook” Mitchell
In streetball, to hear someone tell you how good they are is generally a sign that they aren’t that good to begin with. But to hear current and former NBA stars like Jason Kidd, Gary Payton, Brian Shaw and Antonio Davis say it on camera, unprovoked really means something. The vast majority of any “legend’ is made up through stories passed on by word of mouth and very rarely witnessed first-hand. Luckily for Mitchell, the rise of his legend coincided with the rise of the internet so you can see just what a beast he was by clicking here; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JfNylXvpQSc&feature=related
. To hear NBA stars gush about a player who never made it to the league is pretty remarkable by itself.
What separated Mitchell from everyone else was his leaping ability and was his true claim to fame. At 5-9, Mitchell not only dunked over cars or multiple people, but even a 10 speed parked on top of a Volkswagen! For as good as he was on the court, Mitchell got into drugs and was arrested for robbing a Blockbuster video store and spent five years in prison. But when he got out at the age of 35 he actually had a tryout with the Golden State Warriors waiting for him. Though he didn’t make the team, not making it just served to add to the legend that is Hook Mitchell.
Photo Credit: YouTube