Sweltering heat and extreme temperatures have kept attendance down at Washington, D.C.’s Goodman Summer League in recent weeks. But on a mid-80 degree Friday night, conditions were bearable and the talent— although mostly unrecognizable—put on a great show.

Unlike its earlier stages of the summer when the weather was cooler, the crowd failed to overfill the stands at the historic blacktop—as expected. Goodman League locals are spoiled in a way. They’re accustomed to seeing home-seasoned NBA talent grace their presence with envied athleticism and flawless shooting. But with playground regular Kevin Durant trying out for Team USA, Washington Wizards forward Andray Blatche nursing a foot injury and league regular Michael Beasley recently traded to Minnesota, bystanders had to settle for a tightly contested 53-45 battle between local teams “The Squad” and “The Roc Boys.”

In a pickup game that only the hardest of basketball browsers could enjoy, the action was pretty much everything a fan could expect from a streetball clash. Hard fouls and trash talk. Badly missed shots and turnovers. Crossovers and dunks. An energetic, neighborhood crowd saw “The Squad” emerge as the unheralded victors.

Style can often be more important than wins in terms of crowd recognizance at the Goodman, but “The Squad” managed to combine both in a successful combination. Although it’s the professional talent that floods onlookers inside the gates at Barry Farms, the underlined theme for many spectators remains simple: they just want to see a good game, minus the sloppy ball handling and turnovers, of course.

Famed AND 1 hoopster Hugh “Baby Shaq” Jones was on hand to provide some semblance of professional-style grace and star power, and Jones was indeed impressive. At a listed 6-foot-3 inches and 235 pounds, watching Jones play basketball is like watching a NFL running back gallop through a bunch of pop leaguers. The strength and force that Jones plays with leaves nothing to the imagination as to why he earned the nickname “Baby Shaq.” While Jones had his moments, playing for the losing team wasn’t able to reward him with the results his play warranted but it was everything for those rested in the bleachers needed.

Friday saw the return of a few league regulars who were forced to sit out the last couple of weeks due to record temperatures. Despite dwindling attendance and a shortage of famed talent over the past few games, the competition and passion displayed on Friday was clear indication as to why the Goodman still remains as the unparalleled leader of summer street ball attractions in the area.

“It’s been too hot but people still know where to catch a good game at” says longtime league attendee Marcus Marbury. “We come out here faithfully to see a good pickup game but when the weatherman is telling you it’s going to be 100 degrees, I mean…that kind of changes your plans a little. But as you can see, when the weather’s fine, people are out here.”

 

Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO