Feet were stomping throughout the raucous crowd as Byron Frazier dribbled across midcourt. Frazier slid past one defender, faked his way by another and shot the ball from 28 feet out.

As the ball swished through the net, the crowd around the basketball court exploded. But Melvin Roberts just smiled.

The scene was not the Capital Centre and there were no TV cameras. But to Roberts, the 1,500 persons who had packed the court behind his restaurant, Melvin's Crab House, just across the District line at 711 Eastern Ave. in Fairmont Heights, were a lot prettier sight than he had even seen at a pro basketball game.

Their presence meant he had accomplished his goal.

"I started this thing," said Roberts, "because people around here, especially the kids, needed something to do on summer nights. They can't all play the game, but they can all watch."

Roberts first built the court behind his crab house nine years ago, he said, because Fairmont Heights, with no recreation center, could use a place for youngsters to play ball.

Last year Roberts decided to go one step further. A single basketball court with two nets was incapable of keeping more than a dozen or so people occupied at any one time. But a tournament with top area player could attract people as spectators.

"So we got some big-name people to come out as referees - Adrian Dantley, Moses Malone, Dave Bing, Lefty Driesell. And we set up halftime activities for the kids - you know, dance contests, free-throw shooting contests, things like that."

The idea worked. With the help of his friend and former high school classmate at Fairmont Heights High School, State Sen. Tommie Broadwater (D-Prince George's), Roberts got the county to loan him bleachers.

That hasn't been enough to hold the overflow crowds of nearly 2,000 persons who have shown up this year, but it has helped.

The tournament is held four nights a week during August. Last year Roberts coached his own team - The Big M. Trotters - to the championship.

Playing in hot weather, in games that sometimes resemble football more than basketball, the potential for temper flareups exists on and off the court. But it doesn't seem to happen. No one wants to defy Melvin Roberts.

"I think it's just that the people realize what Melvin is trying to do, that he's not in this to make money, but to help the community," said Stan "Butch" McDowell, who acts as public address announcer at the games. "They respect Melvin and they know they're in here for free. So they don't give him a hassle."

Roberts, 34, is as competitive as the next man during games, but the youngsters are clearly an important aspect of the tournament to him.

Because of the kids he tried to throw a man out for loudly yelling an obscenity. Sometimes the big-name players are introduced with poems to give the kids a chance to guess who the players are before they're named.

"Sometimes things get a little rowdy out here, you know, wild," said Michael Lamar as he watched one of the games. "So maybe folks get mad if their team loses by one point or something. Better they be mad about hoops than something else, right?"

So it would seem that Roberts is achieving his goal.

On the night that Roberts' Trotters faced the Minnesota All-Stars in a sometimes-chaotic game for a spot in the finals against a team called Watergate, the atmosphere in the stands was electric, the rooting intense.

But this is not a basketball-oriented crowd. Many would not recognize someone like New York Knicks draftee Greg Saunders, who plays for the Trotters, if he hadn't grown up in Fairmont Heights.

Watching the game is only part of what goes on. Socializing, drinking and eating Roberts' crabs also are important. Some in the crowd speculated that Roberts was making a nice profit from the games even with no admission charge.

"Come on, no way," said Broadwater, who stood out from the crowd in a blue jacket and yellow flared pants. "How much money is he going to make selling a few crabs and sodas? He loses business some nights because regular customers can't get near the place because of the traffic."

Profit or no profit, Roberts has given Fairmont Heights, which is mostly black and has virtually no recreation facilities (a recreation center is under construction), a place to play and socialize.

Disco music blares before the games begin, during time-outs and at half-time. There is no scoreboard or clock, and sometimes coaches and players do not even know the score during a game.

But in the long run the score isn't important. How the game is played isn't important.

"What's important," Roberts said, "is that the place is packed. The people are entertained, and kids can't get in trouble watching a ball game."

Sixteen teams participated in this year's tournament. Only one - Watergate - walked away the winner. But to the people in Fairmont Heights, this tournament has no losers.