‘The Greatest Mixtape Ever’: Relive the raw, gritty streetball footage that changed the game

In a sluggish post-NBA draft season, basking in a post-free agency firestorm lull, decadently wallowing in limbo “where will Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Donovan Mitchell land “, patiently waiting for a Mr. James Harden to officially sign, wish and hope for Brian Windhorst to deliver a sly sermon on how the Celtics could surprise and tank us next season, I had just enough time to catch ESPN’s awesome 30 for 30: Greatest Mixtape of All Time, which you can click here to watch.

The documentary is based in New York in the 90s on uptown basketball courts where street ball functioned as a lifeblood, where hip hop reigned, our soundtrack of the time, all centered around the birthplace of the gritty, raw and now legendary And1 mixtapes.

The first volume was released in 1998, but filmed several years earlier.

You can imagine the state of things in New York at that time. Michael Jordan was literally at its peak ! The Knicks, in one of the most basketball-obsessed cities, had one of the greatest players of all time in Patrick Ewing and were perennial contenders. Allen beep Iverson had just made his professional debut! Do you to know how many kids started practicing their AI wide crosses that summer?

As much as I might try, I can’t describe to someone too young to remember how crazy the energy was for football in those days. Whoever was somebody donned Olafs and Nikes, or even just rolled up in baggy jeans, grabbed an Arizona or a Gatorade, and called “next after next” to the park.

As a New York native, I was well versed in the subject matter of the documentary even though I was too young to venture to Rucker Park myself. But the energy certainly spread through downtown to the lower Manhattan and Park Slope Brooklyn games I attended. (I don’t have any And1 shimmy in my game, but I learned the cheat code spots on the metal panels to rain down a lot of dweeby bank hits on fools who underestimated me).

I’ve spent countless hours playing pickup hoops in New York City parks and remember the days when opponents would try to get the ball between my legs and clown me around like Skip 2 my Lou. So while the movie was only 51 minutes long, it took me back in time to when I was nervously waiting for the sequel, hoping not to be laughed at.

I would learn later on moving to Lombard St. in Philadelphia that the energy here isn’t that different. Still, with a limited wingspan, you can see that I struggled to keep wings further apart:

Just kidding, I wish it was me who got baptized the Joel And1 way.

The film is narrated by Jadakiss and features original interviews with Dr. J, Kyrie Irving, Fat Joe, Funk Master Flex, Iman Shumpert, Isiah Thomas, Kemba Walker, Lou Williams, Rafer Alston, Scoop Jackson, Bobbito Garcia and more. others. as well as some of And1’s founders and day one originals.

Rafer Alston is And1’s biggest star (although nicknames like “Hot Sauce” are perhaps more iconic) and the only one to have had a proper NBA career. Known as Skip 2 My Lou, or simply “Skip”, Alston played 11 years in the NBA. But he will forever be known as the king of the streets:

Quick tangent. As a Sixers fan, it was a trip to wonder about Skip’s game that once appealed to Daryl Morey, back when Alston was with the Houston Rockets.

Morey did not initially sign Alston, but retained him for the 2007–08 season after being promoted to general manager. I wonder if there was a complex math taking into account his Rucker Park escape (held in check for pro play of course) and some pro level principles based on analysis intertwined.

I like to imagine that somehow Skip woke up Morey’s inside. hopper. Because let’s face it, And1 and analytical style moneyball would seem to represent two different worlds. Yet James Harden, the player Morey is most closely associated with, was the perfect embodiment of both paradigms.

Indeed, the film alludes to people like Harden, Kyrie Irving, Steph Curry, Baron Davis, Jamal Crawford, Lou Williams, Kemba Walker and others being undeniably and admittedly influenced by the pizazz street ball athletes with whom they had played. Yet these names are also some of the most effective goalscorers in professional history. Alston can therefore be considered as one of these key players in the “bridge”.

What made the original mixtapes fun, the movie details, was how authentic they were. These raw, grainy images of authentic, unrehearsed (in the early days of the Mixtape) capture the hoops.

After all, the vast majority of people around the world play the sport outdoors in playgrounds, so we can all relate to it on some level. But those tapes included highlights of real stallions with sick grips and absolutely humiliating ridiculous jumps for defenders as the crowd erupted, all accompanied by music.

Visually, the documentary includes on-set interviews, tons of original street dance footage, and fun, amusing animation to fill in key memories and stories told along the way.

“And1 as a business was basically,” explains journalist Scoop Jackson in 30 for 30, “a company started by three cats from Wharton Business School. White cats who are interested in black culture and find a way not to exploit it, but to find the commercial way, to diffuse it in the world.

We also have a vital relationship with Philly. The guy who cooked up the magic, putting the old VHS footage onto unreleased hip hop singles as a Mixtape, was local product Set Free Richardson.

“I knew I was sitting on these tapes that we had to do something special with,” says Jeffrey Smith, former marketing director of And1. “[Richardson, a newly hired member of the company’s marketing department, who happened to be a DJ on the side] was from Philadelphia, he was musically trained, he knew basketball, it was pretty obvious to me. Just put Set Free in a room and see what happens.

In the words of Set Free, how street magic was bottled and packaged to finally reach us, the masses:

“So I put on the VHS of the street ball games and turned it down. And I just started going back and forth with the records. It was like magic, playing music but watching TV And I’ll never forget when a jump shot went off on TV but a trap [drum] hit him at the same time. I was like ‘wow.’ And then a dunk kick with the kick. And then that’s when the light bulb went out! And said ‘we have something special, it’s a mixtape.’

The team began promoting the videos in Dr. Jay’s stores and began selling products left and right. It became so popular that they gathered some of the best athletes (for example Shane “Dribbling Machine” Woney, Wailyy “Main Event” Dixon, Anthony “Half Man, Half Amazing” Heyward, Dennis “Spyda” Chism and Robert “50” Martin) and began touring in the famous And1 buses, hitting different cities.

“Playing ball in Philly man was unforgiving,” Aaron “AO” Owens describes our local pickup scene at one point in the film.

One of the themes addressed by the film was the question of how were those mixtape legends? Could they hang out with pros? At one point, music stars Common and Snoop Dogg wonder if some of these guys might not actually be better than some NBA players; but he simply lacked the discipline or background to have come all the way.

At this point, the film shows Baron Davis, Kyrie Irving, Lou Williams and others cracking up on the idea, citing how the NBA dudes are bigger, faster and more disciplined. But they managed to do it without losing sight of what these street games represent and how they influenced the sport.

Nonetheless, former Sixer Lou “Sweet Lou” Williams actually lists “AO” as one of his favorite streetball players and said “I tell AO to this day he’s one of my top 10 basketball players, whatever their level.”

This back and forth on their quality was my favorite part of the movie, so check it out. It’s really fun to see the pro stars give And1 props while keeping him in his place.

And of course Sixers icon Julius “Dr. J” Irving, who was featured, recalled the energy of the New York park games. points [in the NBA today] it’s definitely street ball, definitely Rucker, it’s not traditional basketball.

The film delves into and addresses some issues of class and race, and how over time the monetization of the set has stripped it of what made it so authentic, raw, and originally cool. But I won’t spoil anything for you anymore. It was a fun watch.

Also, hilariously, I just spotted this 30 for 30 title to appear in my queue. I can literally watch “Doc and Darryl” just for a few Darryl Morey-Doc Rivers jokes.

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