Up in Harlem on 155th Street lies a sheet of blacktop more sacred than most. Like the thousands around the country, Rucker Park is a basketball court where our neighborhoods youth can show up, practice their skills, challenge their peers, and have fun. Unlike the thousands of basketball courts around the country, Rucker Park is special. Rucker Park takes basketball to the next level. Rucker Park is where you go to play if you’re the best in the neighborhood. Rucker Park is the best streetball court in the world.
Built right across the street from the old Polo Grounds, Rucker Park has become such a basketball talent trove that the games played each night under the lights draw crowds in the hundreds. When you catch a game on this hallowed ground, you may not know who you’re watching, but the talent level is so off the charts that chances are you’ll be seeing them in the NBA sometime soon.
Legends who have played at Rucker Park in their high school days include Wilt Chamberlain, Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), Earl “the Pearl” Monroe, Julius “Dr. J” Erving, and Ron Artest. In 2011, during the NBA Lockout, OKC Thunder star Kevin Durant famously stopped by the park and set the place on fire in what has become one of the most memorable scenes of the park’s history.
Now, I’m not saying the next NBA MVP is going to drop in while you’re there catching a game, but this is the type of talent and respect Rucker Park gets from the basketball community. Next time you’re in NYC and looking to go off the beaten path, head up to Rucker Park because you never know what you might see.
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