In the pantheon of playground basketball nicknames — “The Destroyer,” “The Ice Man,” “The Terminator” — the moniker “SpongeBob” doesn’t quite conjure images of intimidation and savage bucketry. But anybody who has spilled sweat and busted blisters on the toughest courts of Washington D.C. in recent years knows that nicknames can be deceiving.
Andrew Washington, a.k.a. “SpongeBob,” is the reigning king of D.C. streetball. If he’s not the Michael Jordan of Chocolate City, he’s at least on Kobe Bryant status; the ringleader currently on top of the game and carving his place high among the all-time greats. Putting in work at the Barry Farms Rec Center each summer in the noted Goodman League, SpongeBob has dropped buckets on Kevin Durant, Caron Butler, Gilbert Arenas and Michael Beasley, to name a few. The 26-year-old D.C. native, a self-described “power guard” at 6-foot-2, is a giant in D.C. lore whose name is steadily spreading worldwide as he dominates international leagues in the winter and owns playgrounds in the summer.
This weekend, SpongeBob will be in action at the Red Bull 2on2 Revolution, as the tournament wraps up at Barry Farms (1230 Sumner Road) on Saturday beginning at 10 a.m. I got a few minutes with D.C.’s finest yesterday to talk about his life in basketball:
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Dime: You played at Allen Community College (Iola, Kansas), and won conference Player of the Year as a sophomore. Were you getting D-1 recruiting interest?
SpongeBob: Yeah, I was being recruited by a lot of schools, but I got into a little trouble in junior college that triggered me to go to a mid-major. I think everything happens for a reason, though, so that’s where I was supposed to go. I went to the University of Delaware. I averaged 13 (points) a game for my career, like 13 and five rebounds, close to two steals a game.
Dime: How did your name start to rise on the playground scene?
SB: I was always pretty good on the playground. I played everywhere in the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area: outside, inside, there wasn’t no specific time of day. I just played whenever I got the opportunity. Just grinding.
Barry Farms, that’s the place where I really arrived. The game that got me on the map was when we were playing against “Trouble” Smith, who’s a legend in D.C., and Lawrence Moten, who went to Syracuse. Lawrence Moten had received MVP of the Goodman League that year, and they were the No. 1 team. I was kind of the new kid on the block — in fact I had just got out of junior college. I had like 40-something points. Then I just kept getting more publicity and more notoriety. I went up to Rucker Park for EBC America. We (the D.C. team) played the New York team, and I had 40-something, then the next game had 40-something again.
Dime: What are some other games that stick out to you?
SB: I played against Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler and DeShawn Stevenson on one team; I had 36, 38 points the first game, then the second game I had 40. Against Kevin Durant, Mike Beasley and Nolan Smith’s team, I had 54 points in back-to-back games. Actually, the year before, we played them at Run-N-Shoot and the guy on the mic said I had 60. I wasn’t counting, but that’s what he said.
Dime: How would you describe your game?
SB: Umm … I’m a southpaw that’s just a tough cover. I don’t know, I can’t really describe my game as far as comparing it to anybody else, because I do a lot of things players can’t do. If we’re playing with five guards on the court, I’ll play the big man, and I’m gonna be effective. Or if we got five bigs, I’ll play point guard, and I’ll be effective.
Dime: So how did you get the nickname?
SB: A guy named Miles Rawls, the announcer at Barry Farms, he actually gave me the name. I don’t know where it came from or where he got it, but he gave it to me and it just stuck.
Dime: Where are you playing next season?
SB: I just signed to go to a team in Ukraine. Last year I played in Syria; I averaged 30 points and seven assists. I was Player of the Year, Import of the Year, Guard of the Year in that league. I’ve played in a lot of countries … Mexico, Holland, Uruguay, Romania. Every country I’ve played in, I’ve played well. My numbers have always been good.
Dime: Is there a certain D.C. style of basketball?
SB: I think so. In D.C., we pride ourselves on playing with a lot of toughness and heart. Whenever I play in D.C., New York, Baltimore, overseas, I play with that toughness and grittiness. All I wanna do is win at the end of the day.
Dime: What should we expect to see at the Red Bull tournament this weekend?
SB: I’m just gonna make it tough as possible for any team to beat us. I’m gonna play as hard as I can to will my team to a win. I’m playing on my home court, so I feel like I have the advantage. Plus I’m playing in front of my friends, so I’m not trying to lose.
If you’re in the D.C. area tomorrow, come check out the Red Bull 2on2 Revolution tournament. Tip-off is at 10 a.m., at the Barry Farms Rec Center (1230 Sumner Road). Thirty-two teams will compete for a $2,000 cash prize, along with a gift pack provided by Skull Candy, Kicker and Power Balance.