Personally, I would have picked a different name, but I get what they’re going for.
The creators of Fightball officially brought back their fledgling sports entertainment property after a 15-month hiatus and we can report that the basketball is still brutish and the party stays poppin’.
For those that aren’t familiar with it, we got an exclusive look at “The world’s most intense one-on-one basketball competition” back in 2014. Traditional basketball it is not.
With Fightball, the court’s different, the rules have been twisted, and the intensity is ratcheted up since half the crowd is hovering over the court sufficiently lubricated (Thank you open bar). The atmosphere, maybe most importantly, is charged.
But this time around the powers that be tweaked the formula. Fightball is now spread out over three nights, instead of the original one, and features 16 players and a $110,000 reward for the last man standing. A slight upgrade from the original $10,000 prize.
Complex Sports got a chance to check out Fightball 02 last week and here's our play-by-play.
7:52 pm I’m finally allowed through the gates and ushered in from the cold. I’m on Manhattan’s west side, near one of the entrances to the Lincoln Tunnel—a part of town where nothing used to exist and you only ventured after dark if you had bad intentions. People are lined up to get in for second night of Fightball. Expectations are the house will be packed yet again.
8:02 I run through the crowd, catch up with a few former coworkers (full disclosure: I used to be employed by Team Epiphany, the Manhattan based brands solution agency that helped put on this event) and then head to the bar. Downstairs you can grab all the Heineken you want while upstairs (if you have access) you can get your fill of the harder stuff. If Madison Square Garden ever did that for a Knicks game, James Dolan wouldn’t make it out alive.
8:10 A few of the players are warming up on the shrunken court, getting up some shots. No Steph Curry routines or J.R. Smith shenanigans to be found here. The guys look serious, which they should be since tonight’s winner takes home 10 stacks and possibly another 100 in six days.
8:18 MC Joe Pope announces his presence with his booming voice, Bronx bravado, and clever-to-borderline inappropriate nicknames for each player. This is streetball, after all.
8:22 The first game gets underway and the court is surrounded by people, four or five deep under the baseline. Same on the sideline. Behind the scorers table and benches are mini grandstands. Everybody in the house it seems like has a drink in hand—and many are already two or three deep. It’s intimidating and electrifying at the same time.
8:23 “It's Fightball, pull up your skirt” is the first one-liner of the night from Pope. And he’s just getting started.
8:29 Plastered on the wall in big, bold, white letters is the Fightball moto: "It ain't a walk in the park. It's like a walk through hell." They do call fouls here, but the old adage “No blood, no foul” basically applies. Assaults draw whistles and that's about it. If you loved those classic 90s Knicks-Heat games or thought Charles Smith never got fouled then you’re in Heaven.
8:31 Things get a little testy between Steve Ruple and Andrew "Spongebob" Washington after some physical play culminated in Ruple getting hip checked into the scorer's table. That emptied the benches and the baseline and in the blink of an eye half the court filled up with tough guys. Ruple and Washington gave Oscar worthy performance—honestly, they were never going to throw down—but everyone else looked like they legitimately were. Security did it’s job. Props to the massive individuals in ill-fitting black sports coats securing the court.
8:40 First game over. DJ Clark Kent carries us to the second game. The baseline and sidelines thin out, the bars fill up.
8:42 Pope’s nickname for Rich Ross, playing in the night’s second game, is "Clumsy Janitor" because he drops buckets. Corny but funny.
8:46 Some of these guys, if not all of them, come with a coach or coaching staffs. Which is a joke. You’re playing two four minute halves with an eight second shot clock. You don’t need a coach. You need stamina. The Clumsy Janitor’s coach thinks he’s John Calipari out here, barking at the ref for a missed call.
8:50 My biggest gripe with Fightball is you see a lot of bad shots because the guys get gassed pretty quickly despite the 40-foot court. The eight-second shot clock and the intense atmosphere means these guys are going full-bore right off the bat. The adrenaline carries them early on but before you know it they wear down and start jacking up 25-foot jumpers—and there are no Kawhi Leonards in attendance. Maybe four quarters that are two minutes long is the way to go? I do like the short shot clock.
9:00 Quick shout out to Coltrane Curtis. He’s decked out as only Coltrane Curtis can so I’ll save you the description. But if you know the man, then you know.
9:05 Pope never stops yapping during the game, serving as part hype man, part hater. Make a tough shot and he’ll give you props. Make a fool of yourself and he’ll clown you. His favorite thing to say? “Oxygen.” You hear that when the game breaks down because the players stop driving and start jacking. Have I mentioned this needs to be addressed?
9:06 This game is 3-2 at the half and wacker than a Swizz Beatz bar.
9:20 Between the breaks in action, DJ Clark Kent’s in charge of the tunes. He hasn’t played “March Madness” yet. Or at least I don’t remember hearing it. It that’s true that’s a bigger brick than Carmelo's dunk last week.
9:27 Our fourth and final first round match is between William McFarlan and Leandro De Lima, aka the Brazilian Beast, and De Lima is clowning McFarlan. The American is throwing up more trash than DeAndre Jordan at the free throw line. "He's smoking too much sour. Drinking too many 40s," yells a fan behind me.
9:30 The Brazilian Beast takes it 16-8. He wraps himself in the Brazilian flag at center court after the buzzer. "He from the favelas,” yells another fan. Who knew they balled so hard in the Brazilian slums? One of the coaches for another player says he thinks the Beast is going to win it all.
9:32 Clark Kent drops “Father Stretch My Hands, Pt. 1.” Vibes.
9:45 Drink, mingle, admire the beautiful people, and see if anybody will take action on the Brazilian Beast.
9:53 Since this thing is also a party, they bring out someone to perform. The previous night for Fightball 01 it was A$AP Ferg. Tonight it’s Cam'ron. But he’s not performing during this extended intermission. We’ll have to wait longer for Killa Cam.
9:59 Back to the action. Spongebob takes a big 7-0 lead early on in the first semifinal. Tymell Murphy looks gassed. This one's over before we hit the half.
10:19 The second semifinal features the Brazilian Beast and he’s down 6-2 halfway through the first against the defending Fightball champion, Mike Tuitt. The fan favorite is on the ropes at halftime. Clark Kent better cue up some Rocky music for the Beast.
10:31 And just like that we’re tied with one second left. The Beast erased a big deficit which I’d tell you all about except I’ve been upstairs where people are blocking my view of the court and, quite frankly, the conversation I’m having catching up with a friend has been just as entertaining. Basically, the Beast won in the most ridiculous way possible and trying to describe it wouldn't do it justice. Just watch. I’m now convinced it’s his destiny to win Fightball. It's about to be lit in the favela.
10:35 More T.L.O.P.
10:43 Cam'ron time? Cam’ron time. The Harlem native comes decked out in white jeans and a white bucket hat. Sadly, no pink.
10:49 Cam has left the court.
10:50 Clark Kent spins “Father Stretch My Hands, Pt. 2.” More vibes.
10:55 Finals time. It’s De Lima vs. Washington, the Brazilian Beast vs. SpongeBob for $10,000. Or the same amount of money a few hypebeasts I saw spent on tonight's fit.
10:56 For the record, SpongeBob is jacked. Not quite Ja Rule fresh out of jail jacked, but like cartoon character jacked. The guy’s physically intimidating. Which is saying something, because the Beast is, well, you know.
10:57 There are all kinds of side wagers going down around me. If Fightball is ever going to take off, it needs to embrace gambling. We need odds, totals, props for every matchup and futures as soon as the lineups are announced. Get Vegas on the phone. Or the Caribbean.
10:58 This might be the most physical game of the night. SpongeBob and the Beast are banging harder than Blac Chyna and Rob (You know, help him with the weight). All of the sudden it hits me: SpongeBob looks like a jacked Klay Thompson with a menacing scowl and bad posture. For the record, I know he could destroy me.
10:59 Playing their third game of the night, both guys are exhausted two minutes into the first half. First to five wins?
11:01 It’s 3-2 at halftime. They're both running on fumes, settling for long jumpers with no lift in their shots. If I was a betting man I'd take De Lima in the 2nd half.
11:03 SpongeBob goes down hard trying to steal the ball then pops back up to get in the Beast's face. They’re separated but ice spills all over the court right in front of the scorer’s table and benches. The tough guys hanging around the court of course storm it.
11:06 While they clean up the court, Marv “Child Abuser” Roberts—who looks like a mashup of Andre Drummond and Kid Cudi—is honored for winning $10,000 the previous night. “Child Abuser” is a hilariously disturbing nickname.
11:09 And we’ve officially set a Guinness World Record for time it's taken to wipe a basketball court dry. They’re still at it.
11:10 Game on.
11:11 SpongeBob hits a deuce. He’s up 5-2 and the Beast is officially on the ropes.
11:13 The Beast misses a jumper. "No bueno" shouts Pope. Since he’s Brazilian I’m under the assumption he knows Portuguese and not Spanish, but whatever.
11:14 It’s 6-3 SpongeBob with 40 seconds to go.
11:15 The Beast hits a two. He’s down 6-5.
11:16 The ref does an epic job of screwing up the final 16 seconds of the game, basically letting it run down to one second left and never putting more time on for the Beast despite protests from the crowd. Big East refs would be proud of this hack job. Regardless, the Beast still has a chance to tie it with a second left, but can’t get off a good look. SpongeBob has just won $10,000.
11:17 Washington is presented every frat bro’s dream: a big cardboard check that looks like it’s right out of a FanDuel commercial.
11:18 Time to hit the exits. Fightball’s back Thursday to crown the big winner with a performance from someone I’m told has been known to put numbers on the board. I’ll gladly walk through hell to watch basketball worthy of the Van Gundy era Knicks and a Pusha T performance.