By Carl Little
Special to The Washington Post
Monday, August 17, 2009
The rims rocked from explosive dunks and the crowd swayed to the heavy bass line of go-go music during warmups of Sunday night's Goodman League all-star game. Even before the opening tip there was a feeling something manic was about to unfold on center court at Barry Farms.
And plenty of high-flying action happened during the Goodman League all-stars' 85-70 dismantling of the New York all-stars. Travis Hyman, a 2005 Old Mill graduate and rising sophomore at Bowie State, led the Goodman all-stars with 16 points and had a pair of above-the-rim blocks that brought the fans out of their seats. Baby Shaq of And 1 fame added 15 points.
One look at Miles Rawls, in his 12th year as the commissioner of the Goodman League, helps explain why the 28-year-old league is so popular with fans. Rawls wore a light blue polo shirt and matching shorts and the only things more colorful than the running commentary he provided during Sunday's game were the brightly colored patches that decorated his bucket hat.
"You look like you rode in on a eight-passenger bus with 15 other dudes," Rawls quipped at the expense of a New York player whose three-point attempt missed badly. The crowd broke out in laughter.
Rawls's public persona -- and a verbal sparring session with President Obama courtside at Verizon Center this past NBA season -- is what he's most famous for. But, he said, it's what's accomplished behind the scenes that really makes the Goodman League go. When he took over as commissioner 12 years ago, he'd wake up at 5:30 a.m. to wash uniforms and set up the court. Now, he has 17 members on his setup team and the Goodman League is sponsored by Nike.
"I never thought it'd get to where it's at now," said Rawls, a D.C. native who has worked as a federal police officer for the past 12 years.
Barry Farms, a neighborhood that had developed a reputation as one of the roughest in the District, is home to a burgeoning streetball scene. Rawls said the Goodman League really took off about four years ago when Wizards star Gilbert Arenas began showing up. Since, NBA players such as Kevin Durant, Michael Beasley and Jeff Green have followed his lead.
"This is great; I put my city on my back," said Baby Shaq, a 1998 Spingarn graduate who gained fame with And 1. "I'd play flag football for my city if they asked me to."
The crowd huddled around center court was thick, about six rows deep. Beverly Harper, a D.C. native residing in Mitchellville, showed up about 90 minutes before tip-off. She found a spot about a foot and a half from the sideline and planted her lawnchair there. That's part of the charm of the courts at Barry Farms: Mere inches separate the spectators from the players.
During the first half, a player on the New York team drove toward the basket and appeared to have an uncontested dunk. But instead of slamming the ball through the rim, he laid the ball softly off the backboard.
"Boo," yelled Gwen Morris from the baseline. "You're 12 feet tall and you don't dunk?
"We just eat 'em up," Morris said of the fans' treatment of players who offer fundamentals instead of finesse. "It makes the game better."