By popular consensus Joe Hammond has the best nickname in streetball history. “The Destroyer” was a moniker he garnered for taking apart opposing defenses, and he deserved it. 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 in tournaments hosted at the historic Rucker Park. During summers at the Rucker Hammond would battle college all-Americans and pro players home in New York for the summer.
Beyond his nickname and the talent level of his competition, Joe Hammond claimed his place as the best streetball player in NYC by putting in 40- and 50-point performances nearly every time he set foot on the court. How else could he be selected by the Lakers in the 1971 NBA Draft without playing so much as a second of high school or college ball? Hammond summarily declined the Lakers’ $50,000 offer, preferring to take his chances on the streets. At the time it didn’t seem such a crazy gamble. Indeed, Hammond claims that he’d saved that much money by the time he turned fifteen, primarily by pushing drugs in his Harlem neighborhood. Sadly, Hammond continued to sell drugs and was subsequently jailed twice for dealing.
But what Hammond will be known for more than anything is his performance in the 1970 Rucker League championship game. For reasons unknown Hammond didn’t show until the second half, but that was enough time for him to drop fifty points, many of them on Dr. J, taking home the MVP trophy in the process. These days Joe Hammond can still occasionally be found Uptown roaming the Harlem streets that made his name and broke him down.