The asphalt never gets so hot as it does during the summer, when playground legends are made and ballplayers are born. Basketball and the streets renew their vows every summer, and fans everywhere—including some NBA stars— dip out on hot nights to watch for the next unknown.
When streetball was in its heyday in the early 2000s, however, an unknown meant something different. ESPN’s “StreetBall” show was one of the network’s highest-rated programs. Featuring names like Skip 2 My Lou, Main Event, and Hot Sauce, all of the “best ballers not in the league,” the show and subsequent tour caused a generational revolution and a firestorm among critics and basketball fundamentalists.
Up until that point, if you didn’t have the inner-city pedigree, if you weren’t a player who had honed his game and earned a name in the big city streets, you couldn’t get down. That all changed when the And1 Mix Tape Tour invited players to play with them during stops on the summer circuit. That’s how we discovered names like Helicopter, Spyda, and the Professor.
Eventually, the tour broke up, YouTube took over, and the circumstances changed. But now a new name is bringing streetball back to the forefront. Founded in 2009, Ball Up is the nation’s leading streetball tour, and this summer, anyone with game will have the opportunity to go pro.
This weekend, Ball Up gave local Los Angeles players the chance to compete for a $100,000 contract and a spot on the team’s all-star roster. Saturday at Helen Bernstein High School in Los Angeles, local talent competed in an open run, with the top ten players getting their shot at taking on the Ball Up team, this time with Houston Rockets guard James Harden and former NBA All-Star Gilbert Arenas catching the action. The amateurs are competing for a chance to play against street icons like the Professor, AO, Baby Shaq, Air Up There and Bone Collector.The tour will stop in cities all across the country and in the end, two players from each city will make up a team that will challenge the Ball Up All-Star team in a championship game in Las Vegas on August 23.
Not only will one local player be named MVP and receive the coveted multi-year contract along with it, the entire team has incentive. If they beat the Ball Up squad, which hasn’t lost a game in its four-year history, they’ll split another $100,000 prize.
“This year, we anticipate some of the toughest competition that Ball Up has faced, especially with the first stop in Los Angeles,” says Demetrius Spencer, CEO of Ball Up. “The level of skill and talent we find each year grows exponentially and we always look forward to discovering new talent on the court.”
The tour next stops in Louisville, KY., on June 28, where Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry will help coach the local team and will continue on to cities including Indianapolis, Atlanta, New York, Birmingham, Chicago, Baltimore, and St. Louis. The full schedule is on BallUp.com The live events and open run tryouts will be filmed for the top-rated television series airing in the fall on Fox Sports, “Ball Up: Search for the Next”.