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The story of the AND1 Mixtape Tour as told by the streetball players who lived it.
The year was 1998. Michael Jordan had just solidified his legacy as the GOAT with “The Final” Shot against the Utah Jazz in the highest-rated Finals series in NBA history. NBA popularity was at an all-time high but the game was about to change. That same year, a grainy video of Rafer “Skip 2 My Lou” Alston was making rounds. Put together by DJ Set Free, the footage showed Alston doing work in the streetball Mecca known as Rucker Park. The fusion of tracks by Rawkus artists including a new rapper by the name of Mos Def with Skip 2 My Lou’s slick moves united two worlds that had been synonymous since the ‘80s: Streetball and hip-hop.
While the multi-millionaires in the league ruled the basketball universe from fall through the spring, summer has always belonged to the streetballers. Starting 15 years ago in 1998, and lasting throughout the mid-2000s, the summers would belong to the AND1 streetballers. Jordan’s retirement and the league’s lockout a few months later would send the NBA into a decline in popularity from 1999 throughout the early aughts. Meanwhile, by the end of 1999 over 100,000 copies of the "The Skip Tape" a.k.a. AND1 Mixtape Vo1. 1, had been sold.
From that point through the mid 2000s, names like Shane “The Dribbling Machine” Woney, Anthony “Half Man, Half Amazing” Heyward, Waliyy “Main Event” Dixon, Grayson “The Professor” Boucher, and Philip “Hot Sauce” Champion became household names. Rather than rattling off the stats their favorite players were putting up on the hardwood, kids were talking about the wizardry going down on the blacktop. Let's just come out and say it: from the late ‘90s through the mid 2000s AND1 was bigger than the NBA.
The Nike “Freestyle” commercial that dropped in 2001? Heavily influenced by AND1. Tracy McGrady going off the backboard during the 2002 All-Star Game? Seen countless times on AND1 mixtapes before it was witnessed by 20,000 at First Union Center in Philadelphia. NBA Street and NBA Street Vol. 2 selling over three million copies combined? Without a doubt boosted by the popularity the basketball brand founded in Paoli, Penn. back in 1993.
Though relatively short-lived, for a brief moment in time, the AND1 Tournament was the top of the basketball world. From the days when legends were breaking ankles at The Rucker and Barry Farms in Washington D.C. to the days where suburban kids were practicing those same moves on Huffy hoops in their backyard, here’s the oral history of how streetball became mainstream.
DJ Set Free - Born in NYC and raised in Philadelphia, Set Free is responsible fusing together hip-hop and streetball in the AND1 Mixtape series.
The Dribbling Machine - Shane Woney is a Bronx native who built his streetball reputation at Rucker Park before joining AND1 for the first year of the tour.
Half Man, Half Amazing - Anthony Heyward is from Brooklyn and gained his moniker after Rucker MC Duke Tango witnessed him elevate and dunk over a much larger player.
Headache - Tim Gittens was one of the first streetballers to sign with AND1. His name rings bells on every NYC court.
Main Event: The Linden, N.J. streetball legend worked with AND1 representatives to develop the idea of having the original AND1 Mixtape game and tour. Dixon played on the tour from 2001 through 2006.
AO - Straight out of Philly, Aaron Owens has filthy ballhandling skills and dishes some of the best alley-oops in the game.
Helicopter - At a young age, sixth grade to be exact, John Humphrey threw down his first dunk. Since then, the North Carolina native has amazed spectators with his leaping ability at 6'1" while staying true to the fundamentals of the game.
Prime Objective - Lonnie Harrell didn't have the flashiness of streetballer, but the guy possessed a fundamentally sound game and could score points in bunches, which became evident when he dropped 55 points on the AND1 team.
The Professor - Grayson Boucher hails from Keizer, Ore.; he joined AND1 in 2003 during their "Survivor" contest. His streetball reputation grew to legendary heights after hitting a game-winner at Madison Square Garden during the 2003 Tour.
Skip 2 My Lou - Rafer Alston took his legendary streetball exploits all the way to the NBA.
Sik Wit It - Born Robin Kennedy, the Pasadena, Calif. native was given the nickname "Sik Wit It" from his friend, Reggie Cotton, who thought his moves were sick, on the concrete and everywhere in between.
Baby Shaq - Hailing from Washington, D.C., Baby Shaq is the enforcer in the paint with incredible size and a pro-ball style of play.
Philip "Hot Sauce" Champion was contacted on multiple occasions but did not express any desire to participate in the oral history.