Rucker Park's Most Iconic Moments

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistAugust 8, 2013

Rucker Park's Most Iconic Moments

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    Rucker Parker is the most famous streetball court ever.

    That's not me speaking in hyperbole—it's the truth.

    Countless talents have graced its surface, putting on incredible displays that we will never forget. Reputations have lived on through the spoken word and, more recently, video evidence.

    Plenty of the most well-known feats are unbelievable; they seem whimsical. 

    Some of them include NBA players of past and present. Others were career streetballers who couldn't quite cut it at the professional level, never got the chance to or just plain didn't want to.

    All of them were great, to the point where the written word may never do the most famed of tales justice.

Wilt Chamberlain's Dunks

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    Wilt Chamberlain's scoring prowess knew no bounds.

    Most remember him for the 100 points he dropped in 1962, which still stands as the most any player has ever tallied in a single game in NBA history. But Wilt was scoring well before he was 25.

    More than a half-decade prior, when he was still a teenager, he notched 90 points as a member of the Overbrook High School men's basketball team, leading them to a 123-21 victory over Roxborough.

    "But it's nothing," Chamberlain told the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1991 (via, "when you consider that the team we were playing against was trying to freeze the ball."

    Hopefully someone later told him that scoring 90 points before your 20th birthday is the exact opposite of "nothing."

    But we digress...

    Chamberlain is remembered at Rucker for his dunks. His powerful, unreal, hoop-shaking slams.

    Per Sports Illustrated, Connie Hawkins said the following about one of Wilt's jams:

    And one time, he dunked the ball so hard, the ball went through the basket, hit the ground and it went over the 15-foot fence. Somebody went to go get the ball and when they brought the ball back, the basket was still shaking. That's how strong this guy was. He was just a dominating guy.

    Imagine being present for that. Hell, picture watching someone try to reenact it. Perhaps you can't, because it seems impossible.

    Yet who are we to doubt the tales of a man who notched 100 points in a single game at the NBA level, and 90 before he was even out of high school.

Earl "The Pearl" Monroe's 360-Degree Finger Rolls

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    Anybody can dunk—well, except for me. And you. And most likely your neighbor.

    So scratch that, a lot of people can dunk, especially in the NBA and streetball circuit. It takes a coordinated and composed savant to lay in a finger roll—on the heels of a 360-degree spin.

    Earl "The Pearl" Monroe is best known for his championships and Hall of Fame career, but beyond the measurable accolades are his finger rolls, the most acrobatic of point-blank opportunities.

    Flores writes that Monroe would often show up to Rucker Park and yield spectacular results, leaving a string of imitators in his midst. Few, if any, were able to duplicate his patented layups, all the more reason for us to wish he was still playing.

    Gosh darn me for being born roughly two decades too late.

Joe "The Destroyer" Hammond Shows Up Dr. J

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    Julius Erving was great. During the Rucker League championship game in 1970, Joe "The Destroyer" Hammond was better.

    Hammond scored 50 points to Erving's 39, winning the most valuable player award and leading his Milbank squad to victory over Erving's Westsiders. Just one thing: Those 50 points came in the same half (second).

    "They didn't know who to put on me," Hammond said, per Vincent M. Mallozzi of The New York Times. "After the game, Doctor J came over to me and shook my hand and said 'Joe, everything I heard about you is true.'"

    Hammond was indeed a streetball legend, and legend—or in this case Mallozzi—has it he turned down a $50,000 contract with the Los Angeles Lakers, because he thought he deserved more money. If he was routinely taking professional NBA players making five times as much to school, then I'm inclined to think he was right.

    Too bad he didn't play in a day and age where Mikhail Prokhorov owned the Brooklyn Nets and wasn't opposed to overpaying for just about everything.

    Oh what the NBA never had the opportunity to know. 

The Destroyer's Record

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    When Hammond wasn't rejecting NBA contracts, he was scoring–just like he always did.

    We're not only talking 50 points against Erving either, but 74 big ones. 

    That's a lot of points. Chamberlain himself would likely concur.

    Per ESPN's Adry Torres, his 74 points are recognized as the most scored in park history. Kevin Durant came close to eclipsing his total back in 2011, but fell short by eight points (66).

    Seems to me that had The Destroyer played more than just the second half against Dr. J in 1970, his 74 would be the second-highest point total of all of his Rucker Park excursions.

    Once again, I feel compelled to lament his absence from the NBA. He would have been fun to watch.

Kevin Durant Goes for 66

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    Speak of the lanky not-so-much-of-a devil.

    While the NBA was immersed in an ugly lockout, Durant dropped 66 points in an Entertainer's Basketball Classic game, because basketball never stops, so he doesn't either.

    Had Durant matched Hammond's 74, this would have been a much bigger deal. But make no mistake it's still a big deal.

    NBA stars have been known to roll through Rucker Park, but instances like Durant's no longer take place with as much frequency. Big contracts coupled with the threat of injury dissuade them from putting anything on the line in this kind of setting.

    Not that other star players haven't made an appearance. Kobe Bryant himself played there, but while his performance was memorable, it wasn't as iconic as Durant's. Neither was LeBron James'

    The Durantula himself called the game one of the best he's ever played. That he recognizes it as such speaks to the importance of putting forth a show on this stage.

Herman "Helicopter" Knowlings Coin-Grabbing Excursion

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    Herman "Helicopter" Knowlings could jump higher than you can. And higher than Blake Griffin sporting moon boots for that matter.

    As the story goes, Knowlings grabbed a quarter off the top of the backboard to win a bet. The source? Bernard King. 

    "When I was in 9th grade, I saw the Helicopter, with my own two eyes, pick a quarter off the top of the backboard to win a bet, and I was in complete shock," King said, according to ESPN's Ronnie Flores

    I wasn't even there to see it and I'm shocked. Currency has never been so exciting.

    Once you move past the "how" of how the hell did they get that coin up there (a ladder? stilts?), you're free to let your imagination run wild.

    Per Flores, Knowlings was only 6'5", so he wasn't even Yao Ming-sized with insane verticals. He was just your regular, average swingman with enough jump to touch the sky whenever he left his feet.

Richard "Pee Wee" Kirkland's Arrivals

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    There was nothing puny about Richard "Pee Wee" Kirkland's mode of transportation.

    When he showed up to Rucker Park, he showed up in style—expensive style.

    Not only would he pull up in a Rolls Royce, he would double park before taking the court.

    It was a ride befitting of a man who played pickup games for thousands of dollars at a time. Sure, there may have been some bloodshed involved, but you can't put a number of transfusions on double-parking a Rolls.

    Blatant disregard for the law aside, you've probably never heard of another streetballer making such an entrance. Nor are you likely to hear of one that can top Kirkland's. I know I haven't.

    Short of Aladdin showing up to ball on a magic carpet, Pee Wee's arrivals champion those of anyone else.

Earl "The Goat" Manigault Everything

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    Earl "The Goat" Manigault was one of the best-known streetballers in history.

    Although he never played in the NBA, the 6'1" Manigault garnered praise for his insane leaping ability. Like Knowlings, he was said to be able to grab quarters off the top of the backboard, and he once dunked backwards 36 times in a row just to win a $60 bet. I'd pay more money just to see that.

    A checkered lifestyle that included drug addictions inevitably ruined his unprecedented athletic ability, along with any potential he ever had of playing in the NBA, but he was no stranger to playing against the pros.

    Manigault and Hall-of-Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar were good friends, and the latter wasn't shy about letting people know how talented the former was. He once called Manigault the "best basketball player his size in the history of New York City."

    A movie entitled Rebound: The Legend of Earl 'The Goat' Manigault was even made, where Don Cheadle portrayed The Goat.

    Given all the dunks, sheer athleticism and stories (and feature film), it's not difficult to see why Manigault is often considered the greatest player to never make it to the NBA.

    Now excuse me while I go successfully miss 36 reverse-dunk attempts in a row.