If you were born in the ’90s (or maybe the ’80s), there is one strong basketball memory you have. It’s not watching Charles Barkley‘s comedic displays on the TNT Thursday NBA broadcasts. It’s not Dick Vitale hooting and hollering about how awesome college basketball is. It’s not Stuart Scott‘s “BOO-YAH” or block party invitations for Pookie and Ray-Ray on SportsCenter.
It’s the memory of when you first watched an AND1 Mixtape.
Debuting in 1998, AND1 Mixtape Vol. 1 changed the basketball landscape forever. While college basketball and the NBA had their collection of enjoyable and amusing moves for fans, AND1 created a brand of basketball that was purely based off entertainment. They took a Harlem Globetrotter approach to streetball. While there weren’t any confetti/water bucket gags, the players on the court put on a show in their own right. Outfitted with nicknames that will live on forever — Skip 2 My Lou, Hot Sauce, Alimoe, Escalade, The Professor, AO and others — these mixtapes sparked the interest of kids everywhere.
Kids of all ages no longer worried about perfecting their jumpshot, but wanted to perfect Skip 2 My Lou’s knee dribble. No longer was post footwork studied. Instead the focus turned to hours of practicing Hot Sauce’s latest move.
It didn’t only have an effect on the court, but off the court. AND1′s brand popularity reached limits it hasn’t seen since 2008. Everybody had one of the t-shirts with a saying like “I’m the bus driver…I take everyone to school” or “If you had my game you’d still have your girl.” Any court you went to was litered with people in AND1 gear. The AND1 Tai Chi was one of the most popular shoes in 2000, and Vince Carter rocked the white and red pair while putting on a dominant aerial display at the Slam Dunk Contest in 2000.
While the mixtapes started out mostly as a showcase for streetballers and ballhandling, it eventually made a turn to showcase some of the best dunkers in America. People like Spyda, Air Up There, Springs, Baby Shack and Helicopter were throwing down dunks that most had never imagined to be possible.
At it’s peak, there was nothing more popular than the AND1 Mixtapes, and the craze reached a point where ESPN got involved with the production of the show “Streetball” that gave viewers an inside look at went down behind-the-scenes during the tour.
Though the tapes stopped coming out in 2008, a simple YouTube search can instantly bring back some of the memories and relive an era that was unlike anything else before it. Ten mixtapes have been released so far, the perfect number to make a list — and that’s exactly what’s coming next. Opinions may differ, but there’s one thing that everyone can agree on: these DVDs are all must haves.