5 Original Streetball Legends From New York City

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Earl "The Goat" Manigault 

The Goat was a Harlem legend during the 1950’s and 60’s. In High School, Earl averaged 31 points a game in addition to 13 rebounds. After High School, Manigault had many chances to play college ball but ultimately chose to attend John C. Smith University. Due to a poor attitude and his inability to cooperate with his coach he dropped out after only one semester. 

It was on the asphalt of New York City where his legend grew. Manigault was storied for his ability to dunk a basketball with one hand, catch it in the other and dunk it again before he landed on the ground.  Another popular tale of his legend was that Manigault once grabbed a dollar off the top of the backboard and left four quarters. During the summer he consistently wrecked havoc on such NBA players as Earl “The Pearl” Monroe and Kareem Abdul Jabbar.

Unfortunately for Manigault, his basketball dreams came to a halt when he became addicted to heroin.  Long after his playing days tales of his exploits grew as some of the game's best sang his praise, including Kareem who once said Manigault was the best player he had ever seen. 

Pee Wee Kirkland

During High School, Pee Wee Kirkland averaged 41 points per game and was a member of the All-City team. After High School, Kirkland attended Norfolk State University and was one of the best guards in the country. In 1969, he was the selected by the Chicago Bulls as the number four pick in the NBA draft. But Kirkland decided that selling drugs was a more lucrative career plan than playing professional basketball.  

While selling drugs throughout New York City, Kirkland continued to play in summer league tournaments. During the summers of 1970 and 1971, he dazzled all those at Rucker Park with his lightning fast crossover and even poured in 100 point games. In 1971, he was arrested and spent over eight years in prison. After being released, Kirkland finished college, received a post-graduate degree and taught at Long Island University. He now works with at risk youth. 

Kirkland gained infamy with a new generation when Pusha T immortalized him with the line "legend in two games, like I'm Pee Wee Kirkland," on Clipse's hustling opus 'Grinding.' 

Joe Hammond

With a nickname like “the destroyer” you know this guy had to be nice.  Joe Hammond never had much of a scholastic sports career; having dropped out of High School in ninth grade. It was during the 1970’s that he captivated New York City with his breathtaking jump shot and dazzling leaping ability. At Rucker Park, Hammond was most noted for consistently scoring 50 points against NBA players.

In the summer of 1970, Joe Hammond battled the legendary Julius “Dr. J” Irving, basket for basket. At the end of the game, Dr. J had scored 39 points and Hammond had contributed 50. Though he had very little organized basketball experience, the Los Angeles Lakers drafted Hammond in 1971, but he chose the drug trade instead. Hammond’s involvement in street life in which he owned two illegal nightclubs ultimately led to his arrest. After his release from prison, Hammond was never able to find his foot in life and became homeless.

James "Fly" Williams

During high school Williams was not only an excellent basketball player but also a skilled pitcher. After graduating, Williams attended Austin Peay State University where he averaged 27 plus points per game each season. Following his college career, the Denver Nuggets drafted Williams into the ABA.

During his rookie season, Fly averaged nine points a game and often found himself on the bench due to his flashy and turnover prone style of play. After the ABA merged with the NBA, Williams was picked up by the Philadelphia 76ers but never played in a single game.

Soon, Williams fell into the street life but also continued to dominate the game of basketball on the playground. During the 1970’s, he wowed New York City with his flashy handles and long range jump shot. Fly like far too many legendary New York ballers of his time, he ended up incarcerated. Currently Fly works with at risk children in the city.

Lloyd Bernard Free a.k.a. World B. Free

World B. Free was a formidable force in New York City High School basketball during the late 1960’s. Afterwards, World went onto Guilford College, leading them well into the post season and received MVP honors. 

During his NBA career, World B. Free played for five different clubs including the Philadelphia 76ers, Houston Rockets, San Diego Clippers, Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors.  In the late 1970’s and early 80’s, he destroyed NBA teams with his ridiculous vertical and unstoppable jump shot.  Free broke the mold, and unlike many of his contemporaries he left the streets even averaging 20.3 points for his career.

In the summertime he would comeback to New York City and hone his skills against the city's best streetball players.  Currently, World is head of player development for the Philadelphia 76ers. 

In the first verse of his track “Why," Jadakiss poses the question “Why is a brother up North better than Jordanthat ain’t got that break?” Walk into any barbershop across the America and you are sure to hear the names of some great basketball players, who could put in serious work in the league but were never given a chance.

Before Youtube, camera phones, the internet, and even before anyone owned a video camera, a player's legend would grow by word of mouth, often times being embellished as places like barbershops took part in urban sports 'broken telephone.' We take a look at five of the original and baddest dudes to own cats on the concrete playgrounds in the Mecca of basketball, New York City.

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