FIRST OF HIS KIND

Rafer Alston was always a player, but never one that made the big schools take notice. A year apiece at two community colleges finally earned him a season at Fresno State, where his crazy numbers in turn made him a second-round NBA selection by Milwaukee in 1998. (He didn’t make his debut until 2000.) But the man better known as ‘Skip to My Lou’ was a star long before that. An icon at legendary Cardozo High School in Queens, New York, Alston was best known for moves that embarrassed defenders five at a time, nearly every trip down the court.

When his old high school coach submitted some tape to AND1 execs in 1998 featuring Alston, the brand made Skip the first man ever to sign an endorsement deal without an NBA contract. But even with Skip locked down, we didn’t have formal plans for him from day one. It wasn’t until the following year on a commercial shoot with NBA talent that it all came clear.  Seeing our League guys try and fail to imitate his moves while watching tape of him again and again, the idea for the Mixtape was born.  AND1 edited the best footage to make Volume 1 and sent cameras all over the country to find the next Skip.  The Tour, and the Team were ready for primetime.

THE FIRST BALLER IS BACK

We’re definitely not here to wade into politics, but we never step back from a bit of news about hoops.  So with that in mind we figured we’d offer congratulations to the man in the Oval Office for keeping his seat.  We like to imagine that just maybe his slick suits can unsnap like NBA-style warm-ups so he can take it to the court on a moment’s notice.  Pretty soft lefty jump shot we hear from eyewitnesses.

Barack Obama, the self-avowed basketball junkie took to the court with Scottie Pippen on election day for a little stress relief, and had Oregon State Head Coach (and his brother-in-law) Craig Robinson at his side as the results came poring in.

So no matter what side of the fence you might be on when it comes to all that other stuff, there’s no debating that having a hoops-crazy commander-in-chief is good for the growth of the game.

COACH GLOVE IN THE HOUSE

That’s right, 9-time NBA All-Star Gary Payton himself is the brand spanking new Head Coach of the And1 Live squad.  GP’s task is pretty clear, find the best talent that will lift the roof off of the place no matter where we go, and work our guys until they play at least 1/10th of the kind of D that made him the only point guard ever to be crowned the League’s Defensive Player of the Year.  High-flying O will always be our game, but it wouldn’t hurt to show off a bit more game at the other end.

But if you really ask Mr. Payton what this is all about, he’ll say it’s for the kids.  Because every tour stop includes teaching clinics and talks about life, whether we’re back home with an AAU team in Philly or around the globe in the Philippines.  Gary’s got a lot to share, about what he learned on the court, and what he learned the hard way off of it.  And that kind of coaching, you just can’t put a price on.

Welcome to the family, GP.

LIVE FROM MABERRY

Everyone’s seen that new LeBron “Next Big Thing” Samsung commercial of course.  It’s all over the waves and the web.  But for sure we’ll disagree on just what exactly … or better yet … who the “Next Big Thing” is.  We thank the tech giant and The King for their help, but Porter Maberry, the dunking sensation that LeBron’s posse is in awe of at the barbershop just so happens to be the newest member of the AND1 Live team. Standing only 5’5”, Maberry has had an incredible journey that has taken him from unknown high-school baller to YouTube stardom, big-time commercials, The Flight Brothers, and now the opportunity to travel the world with us, repping AND1 and freestyle ballers everywhere.

Hailing from Grand Rapids, Michigan, Maberry was big on the court back in the day, earning scholarship offers, but chose a different path.  After hanging up his kicks for a few years, Porter decided to lace ‘em up again and get back out on the blacktop, finding out he could fly like never before. “I jumped, and it just felt different — I could tell,” as Maberry recalls. “Everyone was looking at me, like, ‘What have you been doing, dude?’ But the answer was nothing. I’d just been working every day.” With his newfound springs, Maberry has taken the Internet and the basketball world by storm with his incredible throwdowns.

So scope out Porter “What’s Gravity” Maberry on YouTube, and be on the lookout for news on when the little bigshot and the AND1 Live Tour will be flying near you.

WE “INVENTED” THE MIXTAPE

Baseball has had stickball since forever. Football has Thanksgiving backyard games. But never have we seen a sport undergo such a populist reinvention with an eye toward artistic expression than when basketball gave birth to streetball. It started off the streets with the Harlem Globetrotters in the 1920’s, of course, but by the turn of the century, streetball had followed in the mold of many art forms of the coming generations. Like grunge music, pop art or gonzo journalism, the veneer had been stripped, the niceties done away with, the Stepford Husband smiles faded to give way to the hard-edged attitude of the streets that saw these games played 24/7. And when the game turned, AND1 was there to capture it, with the grassroots phenomenon known as the AND1 Mixtape.

When you think of a mixtape, your mind probably goes straight to hip-hop. You think of aspiring young emcees scraping out a living selling tapes out of the trunks of their cars. Sure, they dream of stardom – don’t we all? – But they aren’t out there grinding every day unless they truly love their game. The passion they had for their art was the same passion ballers had been bringing to the playgrounds for years – not just to be the best, but to be the newest, and the most innovative, giving birth to the sickest moves that no one in either game had even thought of yet. They were out there expressing their art, and with the mixtapes, AND1 brought that art to the people in a way that was bigger than even the basketball artists themselves could’ve ever imagined. Streetball and mixtapes were made for each other, and ten volumes later, streetball had irrevocably changed the game, and AND1 is proud to play its part.

BORN READY, WILLING AND ABLE

You may think you know the Lance Stephenson story … started a New York high school legend, led Cincinnati to the NCAA Tournament, and then made good in the League with the upstart Pacers. But like every player, there’s a side of Lance you don’t see. There’s a story you may not know.

There’s the weight of expectation. Growing up in Coney Island and attending basketball machine Lincoln High in Brooklyn, home of streetball legends Stephon Marbury and Sebastian Telfair, Lance knew he’d have to step his game up to meet those lofty standards. But he was ready, and by graduation his coach had called him, “the best I’ve ever had.”

As if four New York City championships, New York State Mr. Basketball honors and McDonald’s All-American accolades weren’t enough, Lance kept his game tight in the summertime at the world-famous Rucker Park. When a Rucker Tournament team needed an extra man, Lance got the chance to cut his teeth against NBA-level talent. He was 15, and the crowds didn’t even know his name. But he looked the part, played the part, and in the process became a new, New York streetball legend, as well as a hardwood icon. From then on, the nickname stuck … Lance Stephenson was Born Ready.

Today Lance – excuse me – Born Ready starts for a team that unexpectedly finished last season with the NBA’s fifth-best record.  And we’re proud to tell you that the Indian Pacers’ Lance Stephenson is repping AND1. From Coney to Indy, blacktop to hardwood – and everywhere in between – AND1 keeps Born Ready ready for action.