Catching Up with the AND1 Streetball Forefathers
Basketball will never be the same.
You've seen the dunks, the drained jumpers, the crossovers and the ability to defy what we know about hand-eye coordination, and you've probably loved it. By now, you've also probably realized we're not talking about the NBA.
Often outside the confines of a traditional gymnasium lies a different version of the same game some of us have grown to love. And thanks to AND1 and its talented crop of ballers, the sport itself will never be same.
People tend to consider "streetball" a completely different kind of game, and on some levels it is. But its roots coincide with the NBA's. The objective is still to win and entertain.
In celebration of its 20th anniversary, AND1 is hosting a winner-take-all streetball tournament in Philadelphia, Pa. (you can find more details at the end of this slideshow). Bleacher Report caught up with a few of AND1's pioneers, each of whom is partially responsible for driving the popularity of their respective craft.
Antwan "8th Wonder" Scott, Philip "Hot Sauce" Champion, Andre "Silk" Poole and Shane "The Dribbling Machine" Woney spoke about their most memorable moments on tour, the tour lifestyle and their relationship with NBA players, past and present, among other things.
So don't waste anymore time. Come meet a few of the players who helped make it cool to ball in style.
On Handles and Jump Shots
B/R: Of all fellow players who were on tour with you, who had the sickest handles?
Antwan Scott: That's easy. Silk [Andre Poole].
Philip Champion: Probably me and Silk.
Andre Poole: That's kind of a tough question. I would probably have to say Skip [to My Lou]; I would probably have to say Skip [Rafer Alston].
Shane Woney: I would say Rafer Alston, Skip to My Lou's handles. I definitely liked Skip's handles because I watched him since he was 12 years old.
B/R: Who would you say had the smoothest jump shot?
Antwan Scott: Other than myself? I would say Helicopter [John Humphrey]. I knew him before AND1. We're from the same area.
Philip Champion: I would say Sik Wit It [Robin Kennedy]. Sik Wit It and Prime Objective [Lonnie Harrell].
Andre Poole: That could be tough, too. The smoothest jump shot? That would probably be Prime Objective.
Shane Woney: I'm going to go with Sik Wit It.
On Dunks and Smack Talk
B/R: If you had to rank the three best AND1 dunkers, who would they be?
AS: I would definitely have to say Air Up There [Taurian Fontenette]. Would definitely have to say Helicopter. And...could I say myself?
Yeah, I put myself in there. Those two are style dunkers. Air Up There—one. Helicopter—two. And I'll put myself third because I could dunk on people a certain way. You know, backwards with no effort.
PC: Let me see. Spyda, Main Event [Waliyy Dixon] and Helicopter. Throw 50 [Robert Martin] in there, too.
AP: The best three dunkers would have to be Air Up There, Helicopter and Go Get It [Tony Jones].
SW: Well that's easy. That would be Main Event, Air Up There and Helicopter.
B/R: Which player on tour talked the most smack?
AS: Let me make sure I get the right person for this. In trash talking, you have the entertainment part of it [the tour], you know? Some guys would just run their mouth when the cameras were on.
I'm going to have to say Half Man Half Amazing [Anthony Heyward]. But it was like him being competitive. Me and him guarded each other a lot—and I've got a lot of respect for that man—so we would exchange words a lot.
PC: The biggest trash talker was Alimoe [Tyrone Evans] and Sik Wit It.
AP: Let me think...I mean, everybody was really kind of reserved. I guess it depended on the buttons I pushed. Let me really try to think who was probably the biggest trash talker. Biggest trash talker, biggest trash talker...
Yeah, it's tough because no one was really [a big trash talker]. The coaches used to do more trash talking than anyone. As far as the players, maybe Main Event; Main Event was the biggest trash talker.
SW: I would say...probably me.
On Being a Great Hype Man
B/R: What would you say is the key to being a great hype man on the court? Was there anything special that you did?
AS: I kind of let my thing be on the defensive end. I would try to make a big deal about blocking shots, just grab them out of the air. That, and hanging upside down off the rim. Not the way Spyda [Dennis Chism] did. I did it a different way; I did it before I even came to AND1. For me to be a bigger guy doing that, the crowd loved it. Other than that, that was it for me as far as being a hype man.
PC: Probably fashion—fashion on the court. I would wear a doo rag one game. One game I would take the doo rag off and rock the braids. If not the braids, I'd do the afro. You have to switch it up. You have to have different styles on the court. That's what set me apart from everybody else—different hairstyles.
AP: The first and most important thing would have to be energy. You have to have energy, a good connection with the crowd and also the things that you're saying to kind of conduct the game. Your timing and stuff has to be on point as well.
You know, a lot of times you get your jokes in, you get the basketball aspect in—if everything is right on point, then it turns into a good show.
SW: What I did is I tried to let the guys know their opponents' weakness. For example, if they were playing defense, I would say, 'He can't shoot, back up. Back up, he can't shoot.' If they [their man] didn't play defense, I would tell them 'Take him, take him, they don't play D.'
On Signature Moves
B/R: What's the sickest in-game move you ever pulled while on tour? Is there a moment or occasion that springs to mind?
AS: I didn't handle the ball much while I was out there. I was more on the end of finishing a play off a sick move. I was the 'big guy.' I'm not really a 'big guy,' but I never really handled the ball much.
Most of my stuff was in the post; I had some sick moves in the post. Just posting up, making a fake and doing a reverse dunk—I've done that a couple times. I would say that's my favorite move—catch and reverse dunk from the post.
PC: The sickest move I ever pulled off on the court in all my years is 1) making somebody fall and 2) the boomerang.
AP: Oh man, there are a lot. I would say 2006, we were in Venezuela—actually it was my first AND1 game. There was probably 20,000 people there—it was crazy. I did my thing the whole game and on one particular play, I had drove past my guy with the left hand and dunked it on a 6'10" guy. Everybody was storming the court.
They did a big interview about that. They were talking to the players and were like, 'Silk's coming out.' And I came out, I did my thing and they showed when I dunked on the 6'10" guy.
After I dunked on him, he had his mouth open like 'Oh my God, I can't believe it.' That was one of my craziest ones [moves]. There are just so many, but that was one of my craziest ones.
That, and when we were in Japan, I shook a guy and made him do a split. I gave a guy a move and crossed him, he slid and did a split in the middle of the floor. Like a real gymnastic split.
Definitely those two things, but that dunk in Venezuela was ridiculous.
SW: I actually have a couple. One of the moves was the bounce-pass-from-halfcourt alley-oop to Main Event in New Jersey at the start of AND1.
B/R: Do you have a signature move that you still like to use today?
AS: On the streetball circuit, I love to try to dunk backwards on people and make it look like it was effortless. That was always my thing.
PC: Yeah, the boomerang and the crossover, just a regular crossover.
AP: There are so many. I'm definitely known for my crossover. And my double-spin move. I have a move where I act like I'm going to shoot a jump shot. I spin into a jump shot, but I don't shoot it. And when I drop the ball, my defender thinks I'm shooting. So when I turn into the spin, they jump like I'm going to shoot, but I wind up dribbling and I go lay the ball up.
My crossover and that double spin—I try to pull [them] out every game because I know people want to see it.
SW: My go-to move has always, always been my hesitation crossover.
On Memorable Moments
B/R: Now, was there ever a time on tour when another player did something—like a dunk or a move—that made you go 'Wow' or left you awestruck?
AS: Every game I played there was always a moment where it was either Silk with a crazy handle and finish, Half Man with a crazy dunk, Helicopter with a crazy dunk—there was always something. I never got tired of seeing it, because like I said, there was always something different.
PC: When other teams pull off moves and stuff it makes me feel good, because now it's like I'm not the only one that's really doing shutdown plays and shutdown moves or whatever to entertain.
I had a lot of help on tour. I had Spyda, 50—guys like that. So guys like that came on board and were doing their thing in a different form. It was entertainment for all of our sport. For the fans and for the guys on the bench.
AP: One of the things that I wouldn't say kind of surprised me but—one of the players that was there— seeing plays from Baby Shaq [Hugh Jones] from D.C. Playing alongside of him in and out of the basketball tournaments that surround our neighborhood—he's from D.C.; I'm from Baltimore—and just being on the tour, and seeing a guy that could dominate the way that he did inside and out.
Being 6'3" and like 230 [pounds], he was fast, [had] a 45-inch vertical, had a jump shot, had a handle—just seeing someone like a freak of nature. A guy that size, who had never picked up a weight in his life. He never picked a weight up in his life. Like a natural strength, naturally talented guy.
Him being able to dominate from the inside and outside, handle the ball, shoot the jump shot and on top of that had an attitude—just to see that and witness that every night was amazing to me.
SW: The one time when Main Event came from the hospital and had 12 staples in his head and subbed in the game and caught an amazing dunk. The crowd went wild. That was amazing.
On Their Influence
B/R: Have any current or past NBA players ever reached out to tell you they watched you or looked up to you while you were on tour?
AS: Oh yeah, a lot of guys. I played [college] ball at Wake Forest, so I'm good friends with Josh Howard and Chris Paul, who all watched the show. Josh Howard even came to games in Dallas. Also Jerry Stackhouse—there are so many guys.
PC: Yeah, a lot of guys. LeBron James came to a few of my games when he was in high school. Brandon Jennings used to watch us when he was in high school. Who else...Kevin Durant. That's about it. Those are the ones I'm familiar with, that I was actually talking to and said that [they watched him].
AP: That's a good question. No one's really reached out; I wouldn't necessarily say reached out, even if I've seen them. There are a lot of people that have told me they admire my game and admired me as a person as well.
Definitely a Baltimore native, Sam Cassell, he's a good friend of mine. Of course he's older, but he was one of the ones who I watched growing up. When he left and came back, and saw what I matured into as a basketball player, he was in awe. We talk about those stories often.
I'm just trying to think. It's kind of weird. You get things now on the back. You know, my Instagram—guys on my Instagram will be like, 'I'm stealing your moves' and stuff like that. Which is cool. It's a good thing to be recognized like that and be appreciated.
Even just now, when you were like, a lot of the guys were saying Silk probably has the best handles. I've never been a brash type of guy. I always stay humble, try to be humble. I'm just trying to think...
I could definitely say that I know Sam Cassell always admired my game. And hold on, there are a lot now that I'm thinking about it. Josh Selby. There's a kid Josh Selby who plays for Memphis—he's a Baltimore native. Juan Dixon was another one. A lot of those guys, when I was younger and they were younger, they used to watch my game and stuff like that.
So definitely those two guys, and Sam as well.
SW: Just last week, I bumped into Shaquille O'Neal and we had a conversation. And I played at the Rucker [Park] with Allen Iverson. We started in the backcourt. I played against Sam Cassell in junior college. I played against Stephon Marbury at the Rucker. I worked with Glenn Robinson on ball-handling. The list goes on.
B/R: Were there any NBA players, past or present, who ever told you they modeled their game after you? Or said that they learned something from watching you?
AS: No one said anything from seeing me on AND1, because I didn't grow up playing streetball. A lot of the guys that know me know me from playing competition ball, like my four years at Wake Forest. I've heard that plenty of times from people seeing me play real basketball, not streetball, that they show on TV.
It's two different games that I play. The entertainment part was cool; it was fun. But in college and when I played overseas, it wasn't the same play that you saw on the tour.
PC: Well yeah. We were one of the No. 1 shows watched on television. We were like the No. 1 documentary show on TV at the time. It didn't just influence me; it influenced everybody. We didn't just influence basketball players. We influenced football players—we influenced all sports.
We were different. They showed our lifestyle off the court and lifestyle on the court. That was the reason we could inspire kids and adults. We inspired all [different kinds of people]. We just inspired all sports.
On NBA Players Who Would Be a Good Fit on Tour
B/R: Are there any NBA players you think would have been a good fit on tour?
AS: James White I think would have been a great guy to have on tour when he was a little younger, as far as his dunking ability. The Jason Williams who played for the Heat. You could even go as far as saying, like, a Steve Nash, with the way he passed. Even Chris Paul with the way he handled the ball and passed.
PC: Probably Chris Paul, Baron Davis and Allen Iverson.
AP: Oh easily, easily. Right now, Kyrie Irving. Chris Paul, definitely. When he was in the league, Flip Murray; Ronald 'Flip' Murray, if you remember him. A Philly guy. He went to Shaw University, and he bounced around the league a little bit. He had a street game, like an all-the-way street game.
But those two definitely stand out. Chris Paul and Kyrie Irving, definitely. Those two could fit right into it.
Chris Paul has that type of game, that flair type of game. He can handle the ball real well, so definitely Chris Paul.
SW: Of course, of course. Derrick Rose—all these athletic [guys]—Nate Robinson, Gerald Green. They have exactly what it takes.
On the AND1 Transition
B/R: Was it a difficult transition to make between playing elsewhere and on tour?
AS: It wasn't for me, because I played four years with the Harlem Globetrotters. I did competitive [ball] and I did the show with them. It was easy for me to make that transition when I came and did AND1 in the summer time. I was still playing overseas ball while I was playing for AND1.
I understood what my role was, which made it easier. When guys come and they try to be something they're not, they make it hard on themselves. I just stayed in my lane and played my role, so it was real easy for me.
AP: No, it wasn't. It wasn't a difficult transition at all. I think what a lot of people don't really understand—and it's funny—when they think of AND1 basketball or street basketball, is it's no different than your summer league basketball. It's no different. It's no different than playing at Rucker Park, the Drew League in L.A.—it's no different.
The only real difference is—it's really no different—the structure's a little bit looser. At any other basketball game, it's no different. You got 11, 12 guys who are the best in their city and everybody goes out, they go out and they do their thing.
Like Chris Paul—you said you heard that name a lot today, like, 'Oh man, Chris Paul could play in a game.' Chris Paul, that's just the way his game is. He can do the moves, and he has a crossover here, and this move, that move—it's the same way with me.
My coach sent out some tapes when I was in high school and coaches would send him emails back saying thank you for the highlight tape or whatever. But it wasn't even a highlight tape. He was like, 'No, that was just the first half.' That was the first half of a real game. He'd be telling them 'This is the first half of a real game. This isn't a highlight tape. This is how he plays.'
And they used to be like, 'Are you serious?' He was like, 'This is just the first half of a game. This is not clips put together. This is the first half of a game.'
So that transition of moving to that particular style of basketball with the flash and with the flair and everything, it was just second nature to me. That's why one of the monikers they wound up giving me—I think there was a DVD coming out called The Best of Both Worlds—because I could play both games. It wasn't nothing for me to try to transition into that whole thing because my game was already made that way.
On the Tour Lifestyle
B/R: Is there anything about tour life you particularly enjoy?
AS: One of the main things about tour life was, like, becoming a family. You're on a tour bus with these guys, in and out of hotels—you're constantly together all day long. We really became a family.
PC: The tour was the lifestyle. It was every person's dream to live the lifestyle that we were living on tour. Once people saw us in the nice rides and how we were living, that kind of inspired them. They were like, 'Oh wow, these guys are actually making money.'
A lot of people didn't realize we were making money. They probably thought we were just on TV, having fun. They didn't know because they were thinking you had to make it to the level over all levels, which is the NBA, to be making some money.
But actually, AND1 was the highest-paying company under the NBA. People didn't know that.
AP: The whole everything. You have 10, 11, 12 different guys from different walks of life, different cities and you're traveling the world, seeing different cultures. I was in Saudi Arabia last year; I was in Dubai. I've been to Tahiti. I was just in Puerto Rico, Costa Rica and Venezuela with a couple of NBA guys—Tim Hardaway, Dennis Rodman, Theo Ratliff.
So, just traveling the world and being around different people and all their stories. That's one thing—I'm sitting down with Tim Hardaway and we talked for hours about how he was with the Heat, and stuff like that. Those experiences and those memories, they're going to stick with me forever.
SW: Of course. Just traveling to a city you've never been in and thousands of people know who you are—that's amazing.
B/R: Is there anything that's particularly difficult about the tour lifestyle?
AS: One of the things for me, as a bigger guy, was the bunks. I was kind of balled up in it. Some days when we had a tougher game, and we had to leave right after the game and had a long drive, it was kind of uncomfortable for me. Other than that, the tour life was great. I enjoyed it.
PC: The only thing I disliked about it was the way it just stopped. It stopped when everybody was at their best. It took everybody's lifestyle from the highest peak down to, like, in the minimum. It kind of had us where we had to work as hard as we could to really get to the point where we could've been.
When you're making $200,000 a year, then all of a sudden it stops and you're living life, you have to be smart with the money that you're making.
AP: The only thing I think about tour life that's difficult is sometimes corporate doesn't really understand the culture. Just like with any business model, a lot of times with them it's just about if we spend this amount of money, we get this amount of money back.
They don't really understand the culture and the passion from these fans all over the world, and all over the globe, in the states, you know, domestically. They don't understand the culture, so they can't really admit what's really going on when you're just worried about the dollars, when you're just worried about the digits.
That's the only thing that's kind of tough for me, because I understand. I'm in the city, I'm in the street. I know how the fans are and things of that nature. But corporate—you think you went to an Ivy League school and graduated with 17 different degrees.
You know how it goes. You have a job yourself, so I know you know some things that you know are better. You may do your job better a certain type of way, but corporate or someone over the top of you says there's a different way that's better, and you're like, that doesn't make sense. But in their eyes it does because in their business model that they follow, this is what they did, this is what they do.
It's just that type of thing. Sometimes you have to connect with the people that—even that are working for you, because they're the ones on the front line. That's the thing with me. Sometimes corporate just doesn't get it.
SW: When it started to get too commercial, that was kind of hard on me because it wasn't real street basketball that I grew up to learn and play. That was kind of hard. And then just being away from my family started to get to me.
On Their Nicknames
B/R: How did you come to be known as the 8th Wonder?
AS: They took part of the nickname I had already, which came from college. They called me 'Gr8 Scott' because of my last name. I took the 'great' and spelled it G-R-8. Silk saw that, and he had called me a bunch of other names before that didn't really stick. Then he came up with '8th Wonder' and made it seem like this guy was someone you needed to come see.
B/R: How did you come to be known as Hot Sauce?
PC: I was actually in a game one day, talking trash. Everything I was shooting, I was hitting. Most people say 'butter' when they shoot. That day I was just saying 'sauce.' I was hitting everything.
The next day, guys made it into a joke and started calling me 'Sauce.' You know, I was saying it so much when I was on fire, so they made it into a joke. They ran with it and that ended up being my name. Everybody started calling me Sauce. From then on that was just my nickname.
B/R: How did you come to be known as Silk?
AP: Well, my AAU coach actually gave me that name when we were playing a team in Virginia or something. I had like 38 or 39 points in the game and one of the guys came over to interview me, and they were talking to my coach. He was just like I score, I look and I play that kind of way; it just looks like I play real effortlessly.
I might run off 10 points or run off another 15 straight points, and it's like he's making it look easy. Right there, he was like, 'We call him Silk,' or whatever. From that day—my name was born on that day. And it stuck ever since.
B/R: How did you come to be known as The Dribbling Machine?
SW: I got that when I was 16 years old at Rucker Park. Duke Tango was the announcer and I was playing with Steve Burtt who, 20 years later, was actually one of the AND1 coaches. At the time, he was playing with the Phoenix Suns. I was playing with him and I shook three defenders, and I put it [the ball] between two of their legs and then Duke Tango said, 'He's a dribbling machine.' It stuck with me ever since. And that was about 1986.
The AND1 Summer Remix 2013
The AND1 Summer Remix 2013: Celebrating the 20th anniversary of AND1 in its hometown, Philadelphia, featuring a 12-team, $100,000 winner-take-all streetball tournament, a $10,000 dunk contest and live musical performances.
Appearances will be made by basketball stars Ronald "Flip" Murray, Stephen Jackson, Wilson Chandler, Marcus Thornton, Shawn Kemp and Lance Stephenson, among others.
Music stars Joelle Ortiz, Michael Bivins, Jermaine Dupri and Rico Love, among others, will also be in attendance.
Dunking legends Jus Fly, Guy Dupuy, Brandon "Werm" Lacue, Haneef "Young Hollywood" Munir, Chris Staples and more will be there as well.
Thursday, August 29: 2 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Friday, August 30: 2 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Saturday, August 31: 3 p.m. (Semifinal Game 1) and 5:30 p.m. (Semifinal Game 2)
Sunday, September 1: Dunk Contest 4 p.m., Performance by Joell Ortiz 4:30 p.m., Championship Game 5 p.m.
The Liacouras Center (at Temple University); 1776 North Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA 19121
For more information be sure to visit http://www.AND1.com.