Chicago basketball has a big game this weekend, despite the Bulls being on recess. Instead, the Ball Up Streetball tour comes through the city to take on a team of some of the city's best streetballers.
"It's basically Team Chicago," said Demetrius Spencer, Ball Up founder and CEO.
Registration begins at 10 a.m. Friday at Foster Park for the tryouts for Chicago's team. There, a judges' panel from the tour, featuring current and former NBAers Shawn Marion and Rafer Alston, will put the players thorugh a series of drills and skill tests to slim down a team of 10 guys to play against Ball Up at 7 p.m. Saturday at Chicago State University's Dickens Center.
Ball Up consists mostly of super-talented players whose skills capitalize on the flashiest parts of basketball. In games, the parts are equal to the sum, in that every possession isn't just a chance to build a lead, but a chance to posterize the other guy or break his ankles.
"It's unlimited creativity in basketball," was how player Patrick Robinson, a.k.a. "Pat the Roc," put it, while Grayson Boucher, a.k.a. "The Professor," called it "the most entertaining brand of basketball in the world" because "half of the team is some of the world's best dunkers, half the team is some of the world's best ballhandlers."
And one player will have a chance to join that team. In each city, two MVPs are named after the game, and they will be invited to a two-day boot camp that culminates in another game versus Ball Up. The MVP of that game then gets a one-year contract to travel the globe with Ball Up as they take their street ballaround and outside the U.S.
"Pat and Professor are very humble, and I'm going to tell you honestly from my perspective, when I started touring with them overseas, they're like rock stars," Spencer said.
"There's a mural of Pat the Roc on this big, giant graffitied wall over [in China]. At the airport, you got 2,000 people waiting to see us. ... My background is I came from running Universal Records and Motown. I've been with some of the largest artists overseas, but seeing these guys as professional athletes, you know, it's like they're one of the biggest artists out there."
The Ball Up team members said they might take in some of the Taste of Chicago this weekend if they have a chance, but they are doing some philanthropy work leading up to the game, the important part of their visit.
"The city is so rich in basketball, and there's so many great athletes out here, I would just love for all the really good athletes and ballplayers to come out and participate, because what we are doing is really giving guys a chance to change their lives," Spencer said. "I'd love for one of our next guys to be from Chicago."
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