It was an early morning tweet from Corey Williams ("Yo, wake yo a$$ up!") that allowed me the privilege of attending the filming of the third annual Converse ‘Band of Ballers’ for MTV2 on Monday. The 3-on-3 event has become an annual fixture, fusing both hip-hop and basketball, athletes and rappers, only a select few were in attendance for the filming.
Told by ‘Homicide’ to arrive at 1pm we get there fifteen minutes late and after trying to convince the girl at the door that I do in fact, know Corey Williams, she stamps us and we are let inside. A hardwood half-court has been set up inside LaSalle high-school gymnasium in downtown Manhattan. Surrounding it are some very uncomfortable looking seats as a predominantly teenage crowd is seated. We are ushered to the second row of seats, just next to the television cameras placed to our left, but still visible on camera when it pans. I can’t complain because my friend and I have a great view of the five cheerleaders of the teams competing today. But I digress.
It is a Converse sponsored event so I catch the glances of the production crew looking at my all-black Air Jordan’s. I’ve noticed that the crew have been handing out Converse Chuck Taylor sneakers to all those within sight of a camera so I anticipated what happened next. “What size are you,” asks a gentleman. “Nine,” I reply. “We’ll get you a pair of Converse, free of charge, we’ll just get you to put those on.” YES! At this point though, I still have no idea who is playing and which celebrities are here either. All I know is Corey is repping the YMCMB crew and I have seen Lil Twist around so I know he’s here.
It turns out there is some pretty big names involved today. Wiz Khalifa, he of ‘Black and Yellow’ fame is coach of the ‘Taylor Gang’, Lil Twist and Cory Gunz are in charge of the YMCMB crew, Matt and Kim (don’t ask me because I’ve never heard of them) led Team Brooklyn, Harlem rapper and two-time defending champion of this tournament, Jim Jones led his Jones Family team and finally, Chiddy Bang led Team Swell.
As defending champs Jones team was awarded the bye until the semi-final stages. Games were to be played in a twenty-minute time span, first to ten wins, and you must win by two. Legendary New York basketball guru Bobbito Garcia sat courtside ready to bring a little of his Rucker Park announcing nous to the proceedings.
Give credit to Converse though for putting on a great day, as light-hearted as the competition may seem there were some bona-fide ballers on these teams, Homicide, Mike Campbell, Special FX, A-Butta, God Shammgod. Jim Jones team was stacked with talent, guys wanted to win and played accordingly.
Prior to the beginning of the games the crowd is warned about taking photos and filming but I managed to sneak a couple of shots (as seen below). For fear of pissing Converse off completely, we will not give away the result of the competition, you’ll have to go to their website when the show airs in the US next month.