|Six rules for earning street cred|
By Dan Shanoff
Page 2 columnist
Sixth Avenue and Houston Street, New York City -- Mad Max met Manhattan in the middle of this corner city park Thursday night, where a menacing-looking basketball half-court was temporarily constructed on a platform, surrounded by an 18-foot-high silver chain-link fence. Think hoops as a pro-wrestling steel-cage match.
Who were these guys? Well, you might recognize half of them if you follow fairly obscure Division I college basketball teams. They all hail from some part of New York and brought with them name-recognition that comes with local summer-league dominance. Some have made a living playing overseas, and you can be sure that they all are confident they could play in the League if they got the chance. They couldn't have made it this far if they weren't.
DJs spun hip-hop records for the 1,200 people who ignored scorching weather and a twisting three-block wait to finally pack the park at dusk, noisily collapsing into two sets of metal bleachers placed along the baseline and left side of the court, waiting for the games to start.
The scene -- vibrant with the latest NBA jersey fashions and buzzing with backseat analysis -- was a trip if you enjoy hoops couture, but it wasn't the place to go looking for secrets into how a team might upend the Lakers. One-on-one is boxing to organized basketball's barroom brawl. But watching the tourney's seven games through the crowning of a champ, six themes for one-on-one success became clear. Apply them the next time your parent, sibling, buddy, boss or significant other throws down the challenge (taking them into a cage is optional, but finding a DJ to create a soundtrack is highly recommended):
1. Understand the rules
There was a ref, but any player who expected the ref to call it close -- to call it at all -- was playing in the wrong place. "Why are you yelling at the ref?" celebrity master of ceremonies John Salley mocked. "They ain't the one that fouled you!"
Lessons for your own game: Anything goes. Take that Ewing Hop. Do a little shuffle in the post. Carry. Slap. Hold. Push off. Trip. No blood, no foul? Try "no foul, no foul."
2. Get yourself a nickname
3. Check your wind
Of the eight guys in the quarterfinals, six were beefy power players and two were guards. Quite a bit of energy was expended by the post players to work their way down low, then throw up a hook. Consequently, all players were fresh and strong through the first two minutes; inevitably, by the six-minute mark, things slowed progressively. In a few games, barely a handful of points were scored in the last four minutes of the game.
Lessons for your own game: When determining game rules, avoid something out of your comfort-zone, like running eight-minute clocks. One-minute clocks sound about right.
4. Practice crowd control
Crazy dribbling, spin moves and the ol' dipsy-do were crowd-pleasers, but were quickly dismissed if they didn't result in a basket. After an early barrage of missed 3-pointers, Kev was hearing it from the crowd -- and getting hammered down low by The Franchise. Jumpers, some onlookers howled, were for ... something you can't print on a family website. But when his outside shot finally went down and Kev rode his hot streak to the comeback win, the crowd cheered louder with each basket.
Lessons for your own game: The players who recognized the crowd's presence -- with a little dance, or raised arms after a long made shot -- were rewarded with its attention. If someone is watching you play, treat them like your fan base; if no one is watching you play, try pantomime. You'll be inspired.
5. Diversify your game
As he put in his third straight muscled layup, it seemed that the theme of the night would end up being "big man backs it down ... jump hook right," which is how 90 percent of the tourney's baskets were scored. Smooth could never beat DP in the paint, so he brought the ball back well beyond the 3-point line and started bombing away -- hitting nothing but net. DP wasn't quick enough to guard him that far away from the basket, and Smooth took advantage. Six treys later, Smooth was on his way to the semis; DP was on his way back to Brooklyn. Smooth and Kev -- the tourney's only two guards -- would use their abilities to drive and to hit the deep shot to advance to an all-guard finals in a field of big men.
Lessons for your own game: Admit it -- you'll never win the battle down low, so shoot as many 3s as possible while your legs are still fresh. Maybe you will get lucky.
6. Play for something -- ideally tangible
So Smooth and Kev went at each other as if this was the break of their basketball lives. It made for riveting competition -- winner literally take all. Kev almost had his second stirring comeback of the night, but he ran out of clock and Smooth never ran out of long-distance bullets. After the game, with a stunned look on his face, Smooth walked a red carpet laid down on the court to a royal-looking throne, where the fans gathered around to cheer him.
Lessons for your own game: Follow these six rules. Mr. Smooth did, and his "coronation" was a point-by-point lesson of how to apply them to become a one-on-one champ.
Dan Shanoff is a columnist for Page 2. His "What's Hot, What's Not" trend-spotting list appears on Thursdays.