1. Earl Manigault – Referred to by Kareem Abdul Jabbar, one of the best basketball players ever, as “the best basketball player his size in the history of New York.” He could snatch a quarter off the top of a backboard despite being only 6’1″. He was known for his shocking athleticism, smooth shots and fluid moves around the basket. Not to mention, being a dominant shot-blocker while giving up seven to eight inches to most players. Manigault’s nickname, Goat, came to mean “Greatest of All Time,” but it actually started with a grade school mispronouncing Manigault. He made his name playing over and around players much bigger than him.
2. Joe “The Destroyer” Hammond – He and Pee Wee formed one of the most formidable backcourts that Rucker Park has ever seen. He turned down a contract with the Lakers. He put 50 points on Dr. J, a NBA Hall of Famer in the second half of a game at Rucker. In Rucker’s heyday, he set the single game scoring record at 82 points. Once he got his sweet jumper going, he was unstoppable. And his jumper was always going.
3. Raymond “The Phantom” Lewis – Was drafted by the Philadelphia 76′ers in later rounds. He scored 60 points in the first half of a scrimmage against the first round pick. That pick was future NBA All Star, Doug Collins, a “defensive stopper”. He refused to play until he was paid more money, and it was rumored that he was blackballed from the league. Before the NBA debacle, Lewis turned down offers from legendary Hall of Fame coaches, John Wooden and Jerry Tarkanian. He averaged 39 ppg. in his freshman year of college on 59% shooting. He averaged 34 ppg. as sophomore.
4. Richard “Pee Wee” Kirkland – Kirkland made his reputation in a rivalry against Hall of Fame guard Nate “Tiny” Archibald at Rucker. He led Rucker in scoring twice and scored 72 pts. and 37 asts. in a single game. He averaged 41 ppg. at Norfolk State. Pee Wee once scored 100 and 135 pts. in ABL games. He was drafted by the Chicago Bulls in 1969, but didn’t go because he was making more money in the streets.
5. Demetrius “Hook” Mitchell – In Mitchell’s documentary, Gary Payton, a NBA All Star, states plainly of Mitchell, “He was better than me, he was better than Jason (Kidd, a sure Hall of Famer)… he was better than everybody.” At 5’9″, Hook was one of the most talented players to ever touch a basketball court. He too, is considered one of the greatest leapers ever. At 35, after a prison stint, he was invited to an NBA camp for a tryout. In his youth, he jumped over cars, chairs, and in games, people. He was known for dunking on 12 foot rims, breaking backboards and his insane leaping ability.
6. James “Fly” Williams – “Fly” played at the Rucker with other playground legends like Earl Manigault and World B. Free, the former considered the best streetballer ever, the latter a NBA Hall of Famer. Says Fly, “I don’t fear anyone.”, and he didn’t. He was 5th in the nation in scoring as a freshman averaging 29.4 ppg. Austin Peay (pronounced Pee), his college, went to the NCAA tournament and he put up 26 points in the first 2 rounds, winning the first game and losing the second. He dropped 51 points twice that year. His game was so strong he incited cheers from fans like, “Fly is open, let’s go Peay!”, saying the shot was already made. As a sophomore, he averaged 27.5 ppg. and was 3rd in the nation in scoring. Despite, all his talent he was considered flaky and sometimes difficult and never played in the league.
7. Billy “The Kid” Harris – With more exposure, he might be #1 on the list, but Billy “The Kid” could ball. He dropped 25 points on Division 1players at the age of 50 in a Pro-Am game. He claims to never have had a bad shooting night. He played for the NIU Huskies that upset the #5 Indiana Hoosiers team in the 70′s. He gave them 32 points in that upset. Harris averaged 24 ppg. his senior year. He routinely made shots from 30 feet and leaped over post players when he decided to dominate. Supposedly his attitude kept him out of the league too.
8. Allen “Skip” Wise – Led Dunbar High School to 2 undefeated seasons in the 70′s and a #1 national ranking. He beat Adrian Dantley, a future NBA Hall of Famer playing for DeMatha High School, the the #1 team in the nation, and put 47points on them. Dantley said Skip was the toughest guy he ever played against. He was the first freshman to lead the ACC in scoring and make the All-ACC team. Drugs caught up with him, he went to jail and lost a contract with the ABA. Rumor has it, that he put 50 points on Pee Wee Kirkland in prison. He went head to head with Sam Cassell after Cassell had won a championship with the Houston Rockets. Gunshots stopped the game in the 3rd quarter, and Skip had almost 40 points. Skip was in his forties at the time. When asked where his shooting range was, he replied, “as soon as I step on the court.”
9. Dwayne “Legend” Rogers – Legend never played college basketball. He never played varsity basketball in high school. In fact, he only played one year of professional basketball But, what he did during summer league play at Fonde Recreational Center from the 80s to the 2000s was, well, legendary. Rogers regularly put up 30, 40, and 50 points against NBA opponents. He is well-respected by NBA greats who frequented Fonde over the years like Moses Malone, John Lucas, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Calvin Murphy. He has dominated while playing with or against NBA players like Nick van Exel, Penny Hardaway, Dennis Rodman, Daniel Gibson, Michael Finley, T.J. Ford, and numerous other former NBA players and professional players from overseas.