I came to John Strickland‘s wake in a black hoodie and shorts, like I was going to play a game, fresh from a workout — just the way John would have wanted. He had an NBA ball right next to him as he laid peacefully at Benta’s Funeral home in Harlem, while the NYC streetball community congregated outside to recall the life of one of the playground’s finest post players.
Strick, a.k.a. “The Franchise,” who passed away last week at 38 years old, would show up to most of his games in a sweaty t-shirt, shorts and drawstring bag with his sneakers in it, looking real kid-like. I remember watching him walk over and take his sneakers out many a gameday, putting them on like he was 16 years old, excited about the comp, ready to take over immediately. He wasn’t a stylish player; he wouldn’t roll up jeweled down and white crispy fresh. He was “park deep,” a son of the pickup game mentality, a player ready to play at any time. That was just his style, and in NYC, everyone loved him for it.
Strick was offered a scholarship to Louisville out of high school and a pro contract in Italy after a strong college career at Hawaii-Pacific University, but was denied both because of the heart condition that eventually took his life. But the man known as “The Franchise” made his memory and rep clear by claiming the playground as his own for two decades, giving any player that hit the concrete or gym a lesson in post scoring. I saw him bust everyone’s behind except for two men — former Knick Anthony Mason, and former San Antonio Spur Walter Berry. Everyone else got the business, and for that, he is remembered as the city’s best non-NBA modern-era post player.
I dedicate these words below to John Strickland from Washington Heights, Manhattan, from the Bridge Apartment Projects on 178th and Amsterdam Avenue, a baller from Highbridge Park, a NYC Blacktop Kingpin:
He came like a big elf with a bag of tricks
his left and right hand was filled with crazy finish.
He danced up the court after scoring 50 grand
the crowd chanted, “Strick, grown man.”
High stepping and laughing for all the crowd to see
Duke Tango of EBC, running in glee
Either hand, handle and a pass behind the neck
a catch and flush, his team all day blessed.
Post owner and box controller, a clause and a writ former
on-demand double, playground pro set
a child from Milbank’s cash money assets
all rhythm Pee Wee Kirkland and treble and bass Joe Hammond set
and Strick the son, a whole band for them.
Game breaker, game maker, his man Jay-Z the verb breaker,
action Strick, a-line-ever-after, gift-laster
so all understand his game, and name
“The Franchise,” NYC Streetball Hall of Fame.
Rest In Peace, John Strickland.