Escalade – Throwback Thursday

Sometimes, it’s the weight of expectation that carries the heaviest burden. It’s one thing to have a famous older brother; it’s another to see him achieve high school, college, and pro stardom, all in the same city; and it’s another to grow up to be bigger and stronger than that older brother. Now that’s expectation.

But those who knew Troy Jackson know he didn’t shy away from anything, and the expectation was no exception. Rather than attend St. John’s—where his brother, NBA legend Mark Jackson, starred—he chose to make his own way at Louisville. When he first arrived, weighing in at a massive 560 pounds, he dropped over 200 so he could hit the court—three years later, he had helped the Cardinals to Elite Eight and Sweet Sixteen berths. But it didn’t take nearly as much time for his infectious personality to make him the BMOC in more ways than one: Louisville voted him one of its 20 most loved athletes of all time.

Escalade had always had that charisma, and somewhere along the line he realized his personality could entertain as well as his game. He joined up with the Tour in 2003 and immediately became one of its most recognizable talents—even today, when you think of streetball’s iconic characters, your mind goes right to Escalade.

Troy Williams passed away February 20, 2011, at the age of 35. We miss his game, but most of all, we miss him.

AND Then There Were Three

Sometimes you get to the court, ready to run fives, set to dominate…and see a graybeard lined up across from you, looking like he thinks he can actually play. You take one look at him and hope some competition shows up before sundown.

And then that old man beats you like a government mule.

It’s okay to admit it. It’s happened to all of us once or twice. On the court, “old man game” is that veteran savvy that leaves you wondering how the hell you just lost. And in the NBA, no one does old man game better than the Spurs.

Last night, San Antonio completed its sweep of the Grizzlies, winning 93-86 on the road behind 37 points from Tony Parker. They were out rebounded, had more turnovers, shot fewer free throws and made fewer threes. But they won, because that’s what they do.

The Spurs just don’t blink. In the Finals they’ll probably face Miami, a team with a certain young superstar athletic enough to run right through them (and anyone else in the world), yet smart enough to respect them. As victims of old man game ourselves—we won’t tell if you won’t—we’re not counting the Spurs out just yet.

LA SPL & Venice Basketball League

The Los Angeles Summer Pro League (SPL) presented by AND1 is proud to announce its partnership with the Venice Basketball League (VBL) to give our fans exciting basketball all summer long. With each day drawing over 3,500 spectators, the VBL is the perfect venue to promote the SPL at one of California’s busiest summer destinations.

Playing its games just steps from the sand on the legendary Venice Beach courts, the Pro-Am VBL has featured dozens of NBA and NFL notables as well as stars of the music world. The 2013 VBL will run on nine Sundays: June 9, 16 and 30; July 7, 14, 21, 27 and 28; and August 11 and 18. All days run from noon to 4pm. For more information, go to www.veniceball.com.

THROWBACK THURSDAY—JOHN HUMPHREY “HELICOPTER” v1

The Helicopter first took flight in the sixth grade. He was dunking uphill on an 11-foot hoop before he hit high school. Oh, and he’s built like an NFL linebacker. An athlete like that can get by on hops and muscle and still have himself a career, but John Humphrey was never like most athletes.

As a high school senior, the Morehead City, North Carolina, native transferred to storied high school power Oak Hill Academy, where he played alongside 10-year NBA vet Steve Blake. He then went on to become a national Junior College Third Team All-American, and a starter on a Div. I Middle Tennessee State team that finished second in the Sun Belt Conference. Since college, he’s dominated everywhere imaginable, from the ABA to the Japanese league to, of course, the Tour.

And wherever, he brought two things with him: his out-of-this-world leaping ability—seriously, do you realize this man is 6’1”?!—and his unexpected-for-a-streetballer fundamental skills that remind you he’s not just bigger, faster and stronger…he’s straight up better than you, too.

“If you watch the Mix Tapes, I play the fundamentals,” he says. “I do the same things I do in a real game.”

Unfortunately for his opponents, this is what he does in a real game.

Nerlens Noel

And the winner of the Nerlens Noel Sweepstakes is…the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Last night the Cavs, facing just a 15.6% chance to win, beat the odds and took home the top pick 2013 NBA Draft. The Magic had the best shot at it (25%), but they’ll pick second.

Now it’s gonna get fun. Nerlens Noel has been one of the top picks in this draft since he was still growing out that ‘fro in high school, but no one knows how his torn ACL will affect his best skills, shot-blocking and athleticism. On the other end, Ben McLemore is one of the best athletes we’ve seen at guard in a long time, but the Cavs already have Kyrie Irving, and just got a promising rookie campaign out of Dion Waiters.

Most years, you know exactly what the lottery winner will do. This year isn’t most years, and that’s why we like it. It seems like Noel is at the top of most teams’ boards, but if there’s a trade in the works…like we said, now it gets fun.

Bobcats or Hornets?

Looks like a rough patch in the history of one our great basketball hotbeds is coming to an end. Word out of Charlotte is the Bobcats, after nine years under that name, will become the Charlotte Hornets in time for the 2014-15 season.

Founded in 2004, the ‘Cats made their one and only playoff appearance in ’09, getting swept by Dwight Howard’s Magic. The years before and since…um, haven’t been great. But the Charlotte Hornets were a perennial playoff team in the ‘90’s that gave us talents like Baron Davis, Glen Rice and Muggsy Bogues. With the New Orleans franchise dropping the Hornets name (check out coverage from last nights NBA Draft Lottery to see Anthony Davis repping the new Pelicans logo for the first time), Charlotte has the green light to bring the name back home.

It sounds straight out of a “name the team” contest (and actually, that was how the team got its name), but “Hornets” goes all the way back to the Revolutionary War, when North Carolina’s resistance was so fierce a British general compared them to a “nest of hornets.” We don’t mind a little history lesson now and then, and we love when the League gives a nod to our nation’s past. So out with the Bobcats and in with the Hornets—as any baller will tell you, new threads can make all the difference.

‘GRATS, GEORGE KARL

Let’s give a nod to the teachers. The ones who put us in positions to win, and sometimes put us in our place. Because today, one of the game’s best teachers took home some recognition that was long overdue.

George Karl won NBA Coach of the Year in his 25th year as a head coach, after leading the Nuggets to 57 wins and the third seed out west. Danilo Gallinari’s injury hurt them in the playoffs, but this was an incredible turnaround for a team supposedly gutted by the loss of Carmelo Anthony. This franchise never missed a beat, and Karl’s to thank.

They say you need a superstar to succeed in the League, and maybe to win a title that’s true (although the ’04 Pistons would disagree). But any streetballer knows when the star isn’t around to call the shots, sometimes everybody starts fighting to be top dog. The Nuggs haven’t had that star for two years, but they play hard for their coach. He’s not hard on them, but you can tell they got respect for him. They play hard for him. They’re a team. That’s on Karl

THROWBACK THURSDAY—TAI CHI

Simple, fresh, classic. A monument to the self-expression and style this is the streetball way of life. Oh, and they were front and center in the greatest dunking exhibition of all time.

Vince Carter took a pair of AND1 Tai Chi Mids, starting with that ridiculous 360 windmill, raised the bar of expectation for every dunk contest to come. He wasn’t the only one, of course: we saw Tai Chis on Latrell Sprewell, Stephon Marbury, and dozens of others over the years.

And that design…sweet. So clean you can’t believe you didn’t think of it first, yet recognizable the world over. Though Air Canada made the red and white most famous, the two-tone colorways came in more varieties than the Kardashians. Complementing the soft tumbled and slick patent leathers are that feathery, velvety nubuck, which feels so nice you can’t believe you’re wearing a basketball shoe. And as some of the lightest kicks on the market, the Tai Chis made sure their wearer always rose highest.

Today, our boy Lance Stephenson is bringing AND1 into the next chapter. Lance is normally an Empire Mid man—with his own artistic flair, of course—but last night he rocked custom black/yellow Tai Chi Mids. It’s a promise of what’s to come…maybe the next time you see some Tai Chis, you’ll be looking straight down.