Soul Brother/AND1 Open Run
At the Harlem Kingdome, AND1 Gets Another Shot
The latest AND1 Open Runs were held in Harlem last Sunday, bringing hundreds of people together to come watch.
Located at the legendary Kingdome in Harlem, AND1 made its long awaited return to the court to host their famous AND1 Open Runs that helped shape people like Rafer “Skip to my Lou” Alston, Aaron “AO'' Owens, into well-known basketball players.
Burrowed in the middle of Martin Luther King Jr. Tower housing projects, the Kingdome has brought the Harlem community together in the summertime since its inception in 1984. Its most popular event, the Kingdome Classic, has hosted countless future college and professional basketball players from New York City, with thousands of people packing into the small venue to get a glimpse of the talent that was being showcased.
Despite its popularity, the Kingdome Classic ceased to exist in the late 2000s, due to lack of funding and a decrease in traction. However, there has since been a revival of the venue, with Kev Johnson, Commissioner of the new Kingdome Tournament, hosting AND1-sponsored tournaments throughout this summer.
Similar to the Kingdome Classic, AND1 experienced a decrease in its popularity in the late 2000s into the 2010s, with social media highlights being favored over AND1’s classic streetball mixtapes. Now, AND1 is trying new methods to reach out to fans of basketball, particularly live-streaming their events. So far this has seemed to be successful, with the Open Run in Philadelphia attaining over 500,000 viewers on the ClashTV livestream on July 9.
On July 23, The Kingdome was packed with fans spanning all ages from the Harlem community to see the action. Upon entering the venue, the energy was electric even before the actual competition began. The DJ was blasting out all types of rap music — from contemporary hits like Lil Uzi Vert’s “Just Wanna Rock” to classic tracks like 50 Cent and Nate Dogg’s “21 Questions.” They were also hosting trivia minigames for children; the questions pertained to basketball and New York City, with each winner receiving some AND1 gear as a prize. As for food, Kosherboys were selling their famous “Mizza” from their food truck, which consistently had long lines. There was also a free ice cream station for the kids.
The competition was top-notch, featuring some serious talent from in and around the area who hope to have a chance to be a part of AND1. Players participated in classic 5v5s and 3v3s (for men and women, respectively), as well as the dunk contest. Members of the OG Mixtape team were all present too, interacting with both the players and fans. The most standout moment of the day was when one player got an ankle-breaker during a 5v5 game, which had some loud crowd reactions.
OG AND1 mixtape legend Rafer Alston had a lot to say about the AND1’s impact and the event, which was hosted a day before his forty-seventh birthday.
“It's impacted tremendously. Just everybody wanted to put the AND1 gear on, and everybody wanted to be part of the mixtapes,” he told Okayplayer. “People want to be on the showcase (team) and show their passion and skill for the game.”
A native of Jamaica, Queens, Alston is the only AND1 streetball player to have success in the NBA, which some have argued is a very difficult transition. According to Alston though, that wasn’t the case for him.
“It wasn't hard for me, I was a student of the game,” he said. “I was always studying the game of basketball.”
In regards to the future of basketball in New York City, Alston was optimistic, saying: “It's good. The future is bright. So many youngsters are now getting back into that — going to the park every day and playing, getting up early and playing in the gym. So, I see a bright future for the city of New York.”
Basketball has the power to bring a community together, and AND1 has done that here in Harlem. After the major setbacks that both Kingdome and AND1 faced following their initial fame, they appear to be building back up, creating the essentials to usher in a new era of basketball in New York City.