Sitting in section 106, gray suede Converse Pro Leathers on my feet, a roast beef panini on a plate in my hand, peering down at the Verizon Center court to check out Team USA nearly blow an anticipated exhibition against Brazil, it hit me. This is weird…this doesn’t make any sense. I really shouldn’t be here. I had a media credential hanging from my neck, and yet… I wasn’t all that interested in covering the game, a Team USA game. Much of that had to do with no locker room access, and very limited postgame interview opportunities (international rules). But it also had to do with the fridge stocked with drinks, the hot plates holding hot dogs, the elaborate vegtable and sandwich platters, the shrimp, the flatscreens and the view of the court.
Nike hooked us up, and we had all of that and more within a Verizon Center suite to watch USA’s come-from-behind 11-point win over Brazil last night as well as Barack get shot down twice by Michelle. There was Kobe, LeBron, Carmelo, KD and the rest of the best players in the world. And there was I, up in the suite crunching on some croutons.
Along with some other selected media members, I spent the last four days in Washington, D.C. to take in everything that this year’s World Basketball Festival had to offer, and while I eventually didn’t turn down a chance to catch up with the Team USA stars (I went down for the postgame to listen to what they had to say, despite it being a mob scene), I also had no problem spending most of the night up in the suite. We’re always treated well by Nike, and this trip was no different.
I got down to the nation’s capital on Friday morning, and while I spent much of the day cooped up in the hotel getting work done, we all hit up Barry Farms that night to check out Team Nike invade the Goodman League. As I wrote over the weekend, I’ve been to the famed courts a few different times – Red Bull tournament events, a John Wall photoshoot earlier this spring – but had never seen a game. Take a whiff of Barry Farms, and you can smell a lot of things, but what sticks out most is the love of the game. The whole community comes out, and they don’t come out to cause a scene or watch fireworks or get drunk or listen to a concert. They are all there, some in the bleachers, some in their lawn chairs sprawled out courtside, because they love the game. That’s what draws John Thompson, what draws Kevin Durant and James Harden. And that’s what draws old heads like Kenny Satterfield. They were all there Friday night. Goodman held serve, but not before we were all introduced to Adris DeLeon aka “2 Hard 2 Guard”. I had never seen him play, and didn’t realize until later in the weekend when he’d dominate the City Tournament of Champions final against Marcus Williams, Pooh Jeter and the rest of the L.A. squad that this was only his opening act. When he wasn’t banking free throws, he was lacing the nets with deep threes, and kept a heated running conversation going virtually all game with someone in the crowd.
The action was gritty, the crowd had some star power, especially after KD and Harden showed up, we got a couple of ridiculous highlights from Baby Shaq, and Miles Rawls added the finishing touch with his trademark play-by-play. For once, the real thing lived up to the hype. THAT was streetball.