Commentary

NYC ballers raise basketball rim

Originally Published: April 1, 2010
By Special to Page 2

NEW YORK -- Johnson Park in New York City is well-known as a playground innovator. The city's best street-ballers often head to J-Park to test out new material, whether it's a double-behind the back pass or an off-the-pavement, off-the-backboard reverse jam.

In fact, the park's reputation as an asphalt think-tank actually became a detriment. Just about everything had been done there. The every-day gamers were running out of ideas.

So they looked upward.

With some extra piping, a hacksaw, a bundle of chicken wire and two rolls of duct tape, the sky-walkers at J-Park created the 12'7" rim.

"Ten feet wasn't even challenging anymore," said 23-year-old Marvin "Throw Down" Duhamel, one of the athletes involved in raising the rim. "When you get guys doing double alley-oops in every game, something needs to change. Our Nike Air Max's were getting too far off the ground. We were too far above the rim. We needed to bring the game (up) to our level."

Games -- and the nightly dunking exhibitions -- at J-Park are now a touch more challenging. Players have re-discovered lay-ups and the lost art of the short jumper. But there's no need for fans of the jam to stay away. It's not as if two-handed dunks or reverse slams are extinct in the park.

"I still throw down two or three rim-rockers a game," said Butch Dawkins. "But now I'll mix in a three ball once in a while. Used to be every point in a 21-15 game was a dunk. By going to 12'7", it feels like we cut some of the dead weight."

On a recent afternoon at J-Park, a group of grade-schoolers struggled with the new height, heaving air balls at baskets they normally used to reach. One wondered aloud, "What's going on with these hoops?"

His young friend replied: "They had to raise the baskets because they were dunking too much. The old rims were too low. The games were a joke."

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