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Playground in the world: Rucker Park NYC

Playground in the world: Rucker Park NYC

 If you're a fan of basketball, then Rucker Park certainly brings to mind a vivid picture of pick-up games and NYC's all-time best basketball players. If you're not privy to the ins and outs of basketball, then Rucker Park is certainly the place to start learning. This legendary park has transformed from a simple basketball court in Harlem to a cultural landmark of urban life and the sport of basketball, due in large part to the annual Entertainer's Basketball Classic, a semi-professional tournament that is held there each summer.

Of course, if you do plan on showing up to Rucker Park don't plan on stepping on the court unless you have the skills to hang with the best in the nation. On any day you'll find only the most elite of New York City's amateur players inhabiting the court, and may even find the likes of Stephon Marbury or Rafer Alston, NYC born NBA stars, showing the amatuers how it's done.

  The History

Rucker Park was called the P.S. 156 Playground when it opened in 1956, and an influential Harlem teacher named Holcombe Rucker soon saw its potential.

Beginning in 1947, Rucker organized a tournament around Harlem for area players as a way to bond the community and give local kids an extracurricular activity. His motto was "Each one, teach one" and the tournament further played into his mission of promoting education. Often, Rucker would let grade cards influence who could play in the tournament.

The tournament eventually settled at P.S. 156, and it further gathered steam when a similar pro league was started for professional players to compete in the offseason. Some of the greatest talents in pro basketball--Chamberlain, Abdul-Jabbar and Erving were the biggest names--would play alongside incredible streetball talents out of Harlem. Those local players never received mainstream recognition as NBA talents, but they are still talked about in New York today.

Holcombe Rucker died of cancer in 1965 at the age of 38. His legacy was in place, though, and it was cemented when the city of New York renamed P.S. 156 to Holcombe Rucker Park in 1975.


These days, Rucker Park is best known as the site of the famous Entertainers Basketball Classic summer league, which features the top streetball talents in New York along with occasional celebrity cameos. This is where Bryant and Anthony played, while recent appearances have included NFL stars Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens.

The EBC has a men's division which headlines the league, but it also has a high school league, and U15, U12 and U10 divisions.

Along with being home of a more flashy game of streetball, Rucker Park is also charmed by fast-talking MCs who call the action, make fun of bad play, and come up with nicknames for great players that often stick around forever. Hammond, the Harlem legend, was known as "The Destroyer" for his game-changing scoring outbursts.

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Holcombe Rucker (1926 – New York, 1965) è stato un dirigente sportivo statunitense.

Holcombe Rucker è stato direttore di playground per il Department of Parks & Recreation di Harlem dal 1948 al 1964.

Personaggio storico del basket di strada, fondò nel 1947 a New York il "Rucker Tournament" un torneo o meglio una summer league nella quale le più forti squadre dei quartieri newyorkesi si sfidano tuttora a Harlem nei weekend di luglio e agosto in infuocate e spettacolari partite all'aperto[1].

L'idea di Rucker era usare il basket per allontanare i ragazzini di Harlem dalla strada e dalla droga e nel contempo conferire dignità al basket di strada.

Il "Rucker Tournament" partito con sole quattro squadre e un solo arbitro, a poco a poco diventò un torneo, giocato dalla mattina fino a tarda sera, con migliaia e migliaia di spettatori e con stelle dell'NBA che scendevano sui playground della periferia di New York per confrontarsi con ballers di strada, alcuni dei quali diventati leggendari.

Il nome di Holcombe Rucker e il "Rucker Tournament" sono legati strettamente a quello di Earl Manigault, cestista di Harlem, scoperto da Rucker, destinato a un grande avvenire per le sue strepitose potenzialità tecniche e distrutto dalla droga, protagonista di film, libri, articoli, website incentrati sulla sua storia