Photo courtesy of Ben Shot It/Ben Berry
By David Cordova
This summer, there has been a lot going on in New York City in regards to its basketball culture. However, the month of August belonged to one entity that is well-respected in hoops circles & is the first outlet to cover basketball from a hip-hop perspective.
For many basketball junkies, SLAM Magazine is that bible. Since its inception in 1994, the magazine has covered the best & brightest in basketball, whether it was NBA, college basketball, high school basketball or even streetball.
“There was no basketball magazine, there was no sports magazine that captured the essence of hip-hop culture, and how it related to sports, basketball is the – no matter what anyone says, not even arguably – the most important sport in the world. And hip-hop is part of basketball culture, and that was how SLAM was born,” said SLAM founder and CEO Dennis Page on the vision behind the magazine in its early days.
24 years later, the magazine is still going strong, and it is making moves, not only with the, but also with the mixtape videos of elite high school talent.
This summer, SLAM embarked on the first-ever Summer Classic, which took place on August 18th, at Monsignor Kett Playground in the Inwood section of Manhattan, which is also known as the home of the famed Dyckman Basketball Tournament.
In the weeks leading up to the game, SLAM put together their “Showdown” series, in which a marquee name from around the nation came out to play against the best talent that the tri-state area had to offer at the hallowed grounds that many people call, “Red Carpet of Streetball.”
The players that showed up were Orlando, Florida native and internet sensation Julian Newman (twice), the No. 1 player in the class of 2022 from Ypsilanti, Michigan, Emoni Bates and three players who wound up playing in the main game: New York State’s all-time leading scorer, Joe Girard III, the No. 9 player in the class of 2021, Zion Harmon and the No. 14 player in the Class of 2020, Kyree Walker.
All of those games were preludes to the main game, which would be played early on in the afternoon at around 1 PM in front of a crowd of about 2,000 people.
“I think we’ve re-established ourselves [and showing] how great we are by packing the park in partnership with Dyckman and on a hot, sunny August afternoon, and everyone came out, and it shows the value of SLAM for sure, and definitely Dyckman, so that the power of both brands can only get bigger and better next year, and so, we’ll see how it all unfolds,” said Page.
On the subject of how the event came about, Page added: “It was long overdue for SLAM to have their own all-star game. No media brand had their own game, you had McDonald’s, you had Jordan [Brand Classic], [Allen] Iverson finally put one on. It was long overdue and it’s a big backstory, not that important, but finally we got it done, and it was time for it to happen, so it happened.”
To sweeten the pot, both teams had NBA players such as Brooklyn native Lance Stephenson, who know plays for the Los Angeles Lakers, and the Brooklyn Nets’ D’Angelo Russell coaching them.
Aside from many of the five-star players that were in attendance, there were also two local players that put on for New York City that made their presence felt. The players in question were Cardinal Hayes point guard Joe Toussaint and Dashawn “Rams” Davis, a combo guard out of Our Saviour Lutheran. Both are natives of The Bronx and showed off their skills in front of a raucous Dyckman crowd.
When asked about how he felt about representing the city, Davis replied, “It was good, the crowd was into it, I was into it, you know, a lot of support, a lot of fans came out, it was a good game.”
The crowd even got more excitement with the performance of newly-signed Def Jam Records artist T.J. Porter as he sang his new hit, “Tricky.” And nothing was complete without the commentary on the mic from Dyckman emcee, David “Cha Ching” Teele, who also delighted the crowd with his parody of legendary wrestler Bret “The Hitman” Hart.
When the game started, it was like a typical atmosphere at a Dyckman game, only this was the best high school talent around the nation playing at a court that many of them once dreamed about competing on. There were plenty of dunks, crossovers, and highlight-reel plays that made the crowds go crazy.
When all was said and done, the MVP award, which consisted of a glass case of the Air Jordan I sneaker, was given to James Wiseman, the No. 1 player in the Class of 2019, out of Memphis, Tennessee and Jalen Green, the No. 3 player in the Class of 2020, out of Fresno, California.
When asked about how he liked playing at Dyckman, and in New York City in general, Wiseman replied, “I mean, it’s my debut, so it was a great atmosphere, and I couldn’t ask for nothing more.”
Green, who was also asked about how he felt about the experience, replied, “It’s good, you know I got my name out in New York, and everybody knows me now, so I came to shut it down, got the MVP, so it was a good experience.”
On the glass case of the Air Jordan I sneaker, he replied, “It was good, it’s their first SLAM game, so you know, to get MVP in this, to get a trophy in this, it’s good.”
As far as coming back to Dyckman to play, he replied, “Of course, I want to play against the top guys that’s in New York, get the real atmosphere, the night lights and things like that.”
“You’ll watch the videos and photos and whatnot on social [media], and it was just a great event.” said Page. “Absolutely want to bring it back.”
Although this year’s event was the first, you can bet that it probably won’t be the last. If and when Vol. 2, or Year 2 rolls around next summer, it can and will only get better and better.
Highlights of SLAM Summer Classic, Vol. 1:
Courtesy of SLAM Magazine.
Courtesy of All Things Hoops.
Courtesy of Elite Mixtapes.
Courtesy of Elite Mixtapes.