NBA’s Best Playground Players

By: 07.29.11  •  32 Comments
Derrick Rose

Derrick Rose (photo. Chad Griffith)

The summer is always a great time to catch a run. If you’re a player, you can head down to the Y or hit up a local park, and if you’re anywhere that has decent high school or college action, you can find a game. In the summer, everyone’s home from school or everyone’s vacationing or visiting. You can renew old high school rivalries, light the fire for new ones or rev up your engines for the following season if you’re fortunate enough to still be playing for real.

NBA guys do the same things, and maybe it’s just because of the growth of places like Hoopmixtape that we get to see so much more of it, but it feels like the interaction between pros and amateurs is growing. They know to build a rep, they gotta run the streets as well. People will respect you more.

With the lockout, that movement is larger than ever. Nearly every day another video arises with someone like John Wall shutting down a neighborhood gym. And as you’ve probably seen so far this summer, we are everywhere, highlighting every major summer league/pro-am/pickup run that you’ve either heard about or didn’t.

It was Big Island today in Smack who was talking about that team on the playground who won’t run with anyone besides themselves. They are like a tripod. It’s the same way in a college gym: the team shows up, noses stuck out thinking there’s no way they aren’t the best players in there and then refuse to divvy up their players, even if they get beat or even if it’s easier.

As annoying as that is if you’re on the other side, if you’re on it, and actually running people off the floor, there’s nothing better.

With no NBA season, and with more emphasis on the summer runs than ever, what if NBA guys did this? Groups of fives come together and just start touring the country, grabbing next up at West 4th, then heading down to Goodman, then flying out to the Drew League and waiting their turn, and on and on…almost like an AND1 Tour except it would be real ball.

Would you want to see that? Better yet, who would be the best team you could possible make? When I originally came up with this idea, here was my five:

Derrick Rose (or Steve Nash), Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Garnett & Dwight Howard

Kinda boring right? Everyone’s team would basically be the best players in the league, or at least most of them. It’s only natural. So what if we switched up the restrictions and said you had to choose one player who was an All-Star last year, and then at least one guy who didn’t start on his own team and fill out the last three spots with just decent players? You know, kinda like what you’ll find on any playground anyways: one kid who can really play, someone else who is pretty good, a dude who isn’t very good, but will play team ball and will always look to pass, and then a couple of dudes who can’t control themselves and are all over the court like it’s football. That would be real.

With that, my squad becomes:

My star: Derrick Rose (would be too athletic and big for most guards…will pass it…my other guys will really have fun playing with him…I figure he will show up on time and not make some stupid dramatic entrance…and I know he’ll get a good shot if it’s game point)
My Robin: Nick Young (seems to be destined to play in this…in a less-restrictive game, he would score buckets…he’ll be our crowd pleaser so we can attract a following and feel at home anywhere we play)
My boy who is better than he looks: Zaza Pachulia (the one crazy guy…the perfect 5th man…answer this one question: would you like playing against him? No way…he’d work hard and get all those points under the hoop whenever people get lazy and don’t completely hit the glass and start leaking out…the perfect “looks like he can’t play, but we discover later he was the reason why we won” player)
The psychos/should be playing football: Matt Barnes (the other crazy guy you’d need…throwing elbows all over the place, but doing it in a smart/timely fashion so people get nervous coming down the lane) & Anthony Tolliver (needed one solid all-around player to fill out the team…he can do a little of everything, depending on who we are playing…shoot, handle the ball a little, play defense, pass and then hack anyone whenever it’s absolutely necessary)

*I tried to find a spot for Will Bynum because he’s such a beast on the playground, but alas there is no room. Will the Thrill will be my alternate.

Would that team get Ws all over the nation? I think so. We are bigger than you think, can shoot better than you think and are tougher than you think. People will watch us and put all their attention on my backcourt, and then forget about guys like Tolliver and Zaza.

I’m about to make some calls to their reps. Let’s make this happen.

Who would be your five? Following the rules of course…

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