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A Paean to the Gods (and Shammgods) of Latest York City Hoops


There may be little left that defines Latest York City basketball, save for the Knicks’ everlasting seek for an impactful lead guard. It’s a search that has all the time been inflamed, exacerbated and magnified by the abundance of point guards bred by the town.

There was the incandescent Pearl Washington, who rode a bike and sometimes wore a fur to playground games, and whose tremendous dribbling for Syracuse destroyed Georgetown’s dominant full-court press within the Big East tournament.

And God Shammgod, the worshiped Harlem guard who played a game inside the game by offering the ball as much as defenders together with his right hand after which ripping it back together with his left. The move, still replicated in N.B.A. games by Russell Westbrook and others, is often known as the Shammgod.

From them and others, Latest York point guards learned that moxie, flair and unimpeachable handles were just as vital as the power to initiate an offense. However the era that established the archetype of the Latest York point guard — pillared within the Nineteen Seventies and 80s by Catholic schools which have since closed for lack of funding and playground courts that saw their rims removed in the course of the Covid-19 pandemic — is gone.

For a rare moment on Wednesday night, it was reanimated at a screening of “NYC Point Gods,” a feature-length Showtime documentary that pays homage to the guards who gave the town its rep. The film was produced by Kevin Durant and his business partner and agent, Wealthy Kleiman. Durant, a Latest York transplant, wore Dior as he doled out hugs to the documentary’s subjects. Kleiman, a native, gleamed in gold aviator glasses as he introduced the film to shouts from the audience that referred to him as Ace, as in Rothstein, the protagonist of the movie “Casino.”

The venue was Manhattan West Plaza, a cathedral to the facility of real estate development ordained into usefulness by a Latest York tradition: hoopers paying homage to hoopers.

That term is an honorific that disregards skilled status and statistics and might be conferred only by one other hooper. It doesn’t matter in the event you had a 20-year N.B.A. profession or in case your best performances are actually remembered only by basketball griots. There’s a reverence amongst hoopers. Did you make those that watched you play love the sport as you probably did? Did you give the gang an “I used to be there when” story?

Outside the Midnight Theatre, camera flashes greeted Rafer Alston and Kenny Anderson, who walked the red carpet together with his mom. Sabrina Ionescu, of the W.N.B.A.’s Liberty, sidled up for hugs with Nancy Lieberman and Niesha Butler. Jayson Tatum, of the Boston Celtics, deferentially cupped hands with Anderson as Paul Pierce spelled his name for a puzzled list-holding publicist.

Once the film rolled, though, the guards’ trademark toughness washed away as they listened to one another’s stories. “It was very emotional, not only for myself, but, you realize, I lived and witnessed those stories of the opposite guys and girls also,” said Mark Jackson, a former Knicks point guard who starred at St. John’s. Seated alongside his 4 children, he dabbed at his eyes as he heard Kenny Smith, a Queens-born retired N.B.A. champion, describe how Jackson’s smarts led him to a virtually 17-year pro profession.

At its heart, “Point Gods” is the hoopers’ oral history of how the town created a lineage on the position. Shammgod developed his dribble because his gym teacher, Tiny Archibald, told him it will make him perpetually beneficial to any team. Only by watching a V.H.S. mixtape compilation of point guard highlights called “Below the Rim” did he learn of Archibald’s previous work.

That revelation drew a crack of laughter contained in the screening, where, earlier, attendees jostled over seats and settled in with the shoulder-to-shoulder intimacy of the town’s bandbox parks. Dao-Yi Chow, a lauded clothier, sat near a far wall wearing Jackson’s Knicks jersey. Clark Kent, whose real name is Rodolfo Franklin and who goes by the Rucker Park-ian nickname “God’s Favorite DJ,” held down a back-row seat. Kent produced a piece of Jay-Z’s debut “Reasonable Doubt,” which dropped in 1996, the 12 months Jeff Van Gundy took over the Knicks.

For his part, Jay-Z had welcomed Shammgod on a close-by rooftop patio before the screening. The rapper and mogul was a mainstay of Rucker Park’s Entertainer’s Basketball Classic within the early aughts, and his try to woo Kareem Reid from a rival’s team with a bag of money is told by that rival, the rapper Fat Joe. The precise sum, rumored to be within the 1000’s, is bleeped out within the retelling as Joe recounts the Mafioso-style meeting he had with Reid to persuade him not to leap ship. Reid, who had a cup of coffee with the N.B.A.’s Hornets in 2003, stayed.

When the film showed LeBron James, Beyoncé and N.B.A. Commissioner David Stern (wearing Joe’s platinum and diamond chain) making summer pilgrimages to the park, a girl seated 4 rows from the screen yelped, “I used to be there,” “I used to be there,” “There too,” each tallying her attendance and bringing Harlem into the room.

In one other scene, the rapper Cam’ron — a Harlem native who played on several highschool travel teams alongside among the documentary’s subjects — explained that oohs and ahhs from the gang were value “5 – 6 points” to a Latest York point guard.

Cut to Anderson in a 1991 A.C.C. game. He’d been a highschool legend at Archbishop Molloy in Queens, and Latest Yorkers who followed his profession to Georgia Tech couldn’t wait to see him mix up Duke’s Bobby Hurley, who was notorious for his lax defense. The purpose guard solid hypes up what’s about to come back, and Smith urges the director to tug the sport footage up so he can narrate a grainy ESPN clip of the one-on-one clash.

Anderson meets Hurley on the elbow, then takes his dribble behind his back and between his legs before gliding past a dazed Hurley for a floating layup. Unnoted was the indisputable fact that Duke won the sport.

Small matter. When it happened, only Dickie V’s hyperventilation on ESPN marked the moment as something special. “NYC Point Gods,” though, layered within the soundtrack of the hoopers who’ve told and retold the story as one in every of many chapters of their aggrandizing mythology.

On film, though, Shammgod is awed. Stephon Marbury, who sported Anderson’s center-parted haircut in highschool and followed him to Georgia Tech, leans into the retelling. The unscripted, ephemeral whoops from contained in the screening, from N.B.A. stars and highschool coaches and their playground peers, fell anew upon Anderson within the theater’s dark.

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