Tuesday, 2 August 2011

KEVIN DURANT AND THE LEGEND OF RUCKER PARK

Basketball was invented in Springfield, Massachusetts, but its popularity is arguably greatest in the state of Indiana.

However, the sport's spiritual home is surely Rucker Park in Harlem, New York.

In 2009, I surprised my girlfriend by taking her to New York for her Birthday. It would be a romantic trip featuring a sunset cruise down the Hudson River, beautiful views from the top of the Empire State Building, a chance to learn about immigrants' plight at Ellis Island and the opportunity to breathe the (relatively) fresh air in Central Park - the 'lungs of New York'.

Who am I kidding?

The trip to New York was all about my badly disguised pilgrimage to the Mecca of basketball - Rucker Park.

Being an Englishman in New York, I was concerned what the residents of Harlem would make of me. My girlfriend and I got off the tube at 125th Street and quickly established that we were the only white people on view. (This would later cause much reflection about how ethnic minorities must feel in England and other predominantly white countries). Not only that, but my posh Oxfordshire accent certainly wasn't what the locals were used to.


It didn't seem to matter. The people were friendly and approachable. We walked into a local sports store and checked out the latest Nike Hyperize trainers (or 'sneakers', to use the American word). The shop assistant seemed intrigued by my accent - and what the hell I was doing in Harlem.

Later, I walked past a street seller trying to offload bottles of shampoo and conditioner suited to afro-style hair. But that didn't stop him from trying to sell me some.

"White man, come back, I won't bite!" he barked at me as I walked past, laughing nervously .

We eventually made our way to Rucker Park (admittedly with the help of a taxi driver, who seemed bemused as to why we cared).


Fast forward two years. On 1st August 2011, Kevin Durant lit up Rucker Park with 66 points including four consecutive 3-pointers (see link below).

This is why I care.


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