The scene surrounding the tiny neighborhood of Barry Farms on a cool Thursday evening couldn’t have been cropped better if it arrived fresh out of a movie. Blaring music veered around the corner; the trace of barbecue decorated the air above the local playground; smiles and grins outlined several faces in the audience and the anticipation of a three-day Labor Day weekend even prompted some locals to stay courtside well into the wee hours of the night.
The last day of Washington, D.C.’s George Goodman League concluded on Sept. 1 with a tribute to past blacktop ballers in the Legend’s Game and a focus on some of today’s newer streetball spectaculars in the All-Star tribute and even included free food as part of its Fan Appreciation Day.
It’s been an eventful summer for the long-running D.C. summer circuit, the birth of an indoor basketball league coalition and an NCAA sanction, which allowed several collegiate hoopsters to suit up without worry, helped drive the Goodman League to new heights this year.
The late August summer showdown with cross-country rival, Los Angeles’ Drew League, didn’t do anything but land the Goodman on the first page of ESPN’s online site and flood the Web with snippets of videotape from a game featuring Maryland native Kevin Durant and the District’s newly adopted son Washington Wizards star John Wall. A tentative date has already been set for an October faceoff with the Rucker League, New York’s pride and pleasured outdoor circuit, making 2011 the year of the Goodman. But despite all the notoriety, all the fame and all the media coverage, the men behind the Goodman League, Miles Rawls, its colorful play-by-play commentator, and Mac Williams, its public relations rep/ website controller/ behind-the-scenes contact man, still remain humbled by it all.
“The summer has been incredible,” Williams says. “Goodman is now No. 1. People are looking to play us or looking to come and play. I get emails just about everyday from people who want to come down and play in the league. I’m looking forward to great things next summer and summers beyond. We’ve taken our place as one of the best summer leagues that people want to come to and see. When it comes to this summer, I don’t think you could ask for anything better, at all.”
After handing out double-digit assists in the Legends Game, Rawls smiles when jeered by locals and shakes hands as he walks off the court. The 49-year-old looks like he just went 12 rounds with a professional boxer but the spry and spring in his step still surprises some of his peers. For a man who’s becoming more and more famous with each passing summer, playing a quick but competitive game of hoops is nothing compared to the workload he’s endured this year.
“It’s put the Goodman League on a more national level,” Rawls says about his league’s 2011 summer season. “They know about us worldwide now and that’s big for the city.”
When the Drew League squared off with the Goodman in the properly titled “Capital Punishment” event, a game which D.C. won 135-134, it made history as one of the biggest summer games to feature National Basketball Association pros that either league, or the city, has ever seen. Tickets were sold out across town and an angry mob of 3,000 to 4,000 fans were left outside the building at Trinity University due to the sheer mass of fans who traveled from out of state to see the game.
“It was a small venue, hopefully next time we’ll get a bigger venue so anybody who wants to get in can get in but yea, that was a major game,” Rawls recalls.
“I was contacted by a guy named Chris Young from the Drew League and I started talking to him and [Drew League commissioner] Dino Smiley and it just grew and blew up,” Williams says. “It turned into a good game, an excellent game, the highlight of the summer.”
The two men will try to force the highlight of the fall as the Goodman gets set to face the Rucker and if D.C. is able to overtake the Big Apple the same way it bested L.A. then basketball seniority could be in hand, at least for this year. “We got to beat Rucker first,” Rawls admits. “We’re working on that game as we speak.”
Despite the summer tipping to an end, the work never stops for Rawls or Williams. A faceoff with Rucker will definitely draw a large crowd, once finalized, but before Rawls can even think about that game, he has to catch his breath to provide his light-hearted play-by-play and color calls for Goodman League’s last official summer game. But just before he heads off to hoist his microphone, he calls out his own performance of the evening’s Legends Game. “My knees are going to be killing me in the morning,” the M.C. says with a grin before drying off and returning to action to call the day’s final game. “Good performance though, I played 40 minutes, 49 years old, 40 minutes.”