NEW YORK – Bernard King remembers the rugged battles under the basket, trading elbows and shoves for a precious rebound.
Every possession was important because losing meant leaving the court.
King learned to play on blacktops in Brooklyn, where reputations are earned and nothing’s given.
“Sometimes,” the former Knicks star forward said, “playing the game on the playground was tougher than playing in the NBA. At least in the NBA you had the benefit of an official.”
This weekend’s All-Star celebration was not only a chance for the league to honor the game’s current top players, but to pay homage to this city, where the sound of a basketball bouncing on pavement is part of the soundtrack of so many lives.
Before Sunday’s main event in Madison Square Garden, the “city’s game” was celebrated in all five boroughs — Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens, Manhattan and Staten Island, as New York welcomed the hoops world onto its home court.
From famed Rucker Park in Harlem to the outdoor courts near King’s home in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene Projects, basketball connects New Yorkers.
During the annual “Legend’s Brunch” honoring some of the league’s biggest stars, King and other New York hoop icons such as Julius “Dr. J” Erving, Nate “Tiny” Archibald, the only player to lead the NBA in scoring and assists in the same season, Walt “Clyde” Frazier, Chris Mullin and Kenny Smith told stories of pickup games on New York’s concrete courts.
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