Artist: DVD ReviewTitle: The Real: Rucker Park Legends (DVD)Rating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Sidik Fofana
The name tends to say it all. It’s those stories you heard about guys leaping high to grab coins off the top of the backboard. It’s those stories about guys who were dropping 50, 60, 70 points in a game before Kobe and them made it out of the crib. It’s those guys that gave NBA superstars like Dr. J and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar stomach’s butterflies. That’s right, executive producer Bob McCullough Jr. and Image Entertainment have teamed up to document the The Real: Rucker Park Legends (Image Entertainment) in a DVD project, and like a rusty library book in anybody’s house, it was long overdue.
Life is funny because our Rucker Park legends of the 70’s are old now. The Rucker Park Legends film provides in depth personal interviews with icons like Joe Hammond, et. al reflecting on their basketball legacy. Here, we have live commentary from these age men who used to leap the sky, bank jumpshots, turn into zombies glued to their every movement, and who now just roam Harlem as everyday people. This spooky circumstance makes one wonder how many other people wander New York City keeping the most dazzling stories to themselves.
And stories are what makes The Real: Rucker Park Legends a very worthwhile film. The great Joe Hammond tells the tale of his days as a young prankster, when an elder gave him the ultimatum to vacate the park or grab a basketball. The rest is history, 71 points in a game of history to be precise. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and some of the Rucker players of yesteryear also help tell the story of the Rucker’s shiniest emblem, the late Earl “The Goat” Manigault. They do their justice to the phenomenal tale of a man hectored by basketball fame and drug addiction alike. The DVD gives you the ultimate fairy tale from the Grimm Brothers of roundball themselves.
It’s hard to give a project dedicated to Negro Leagues of basketball anything less than glowing reviews. But, the sideways thumb has to peak out a tiny bit when it comes to the film’s lack of actual basketball highlights. As informative as a documentary about ball should be, at the end of the day, the viewers just want to see the action. Though a round of applause goes to the storytelling component of the film, The Real: Rucker Park Legends lacks the glue that is provided by raw playing footage. Besides, for those who are unfamiliar with Joe Hammond could look at his interview clips and say, “You were an awesome ball player? Yeah right, gramps.”
All in all, the The Real: Rucker Park Legends is an exquisite chronicle of a sacred playground’s survival of the times. Remember all those people watching the Rucker games from the school building, sitting on its ledge like beautiful mildew? It’s not the Entertainer’s Basketball Classic. It’s not those players, “Who dunk and have to flex afterwards,” like former Knick Hawthorne Wingo says. It’s just one more nook in the history of another sport so forcefully revolutionized by black people.