Greg Marius Court at Holcombe Rucker Park (Photo by Jon Lopez / IG: @jonlopez13)
PHILANTHROPY

It’s Time to Host an NBA Game at Rucker Park

NBPA executive director Michele Roberts hinted at the possibility of an NBA game at the most iconic outdoor court in the world following an ambitious redesign.

After overseeing a successful refurbishment of Greg Marius Court at Harlem’s legendary Holcombe Rucker Park that was unveiled on Saturday, the National Basketball Players Association’s (NBPA) executive director, Michele Roberts, hinted at big plans that could be in the offing at the historic uptown venue.

Playing a real, live NBA game there.

“Let’s put it this way — once we got the court ready, that’s the next step. We’re going to try to go to that next level,” Roberts told Boardroom. “That is on the agenda, I would love to be able to do that.”

And why not?

Her comments came two months after MLB hosted its “Field of Dreams Game” in Iowa, inspired by the 1989 film of the same name. The matchup between the White Sox and Yankees was deemed a huge win for MLB, garnering the largest regular season broadcast audience in 16 years, averaging 5.9 million viewers across FOX and FOX Deportes and ending with a eye-popping walk-off home run.

The MLB’s triumph, along with the tradition of the NHL’s outdoor Winter Classic, sparked discussion among sports fans as to non-traditional venues at which leagues like the NBA could play. There are famous parks and courts nationwide, but with Rucker Park playing host to multiple NBA players’ exhibition games and a newly renovated court, it could emerge as an early favorite. 

Roberts said she has never had an easier task than when she requested for the players union to repair the court. The NBPA partnered with NYC Parks to level the court’s pavement, bring in new bleachers and team benches, and create a new scoreboard. Spalding also donated custom-made backboards and baskets.

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Roberts tapped artist and filmmaker Set Free Richardson to serve as the project’s creative director, who in turn called on rapper and Harlem native A$AP Ferg to redesign Rucker’s court.

The event’s featured speakers included Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer Julius Irving, NYC Parks commissioner Gabrielle Fialkoff, CEO of 155 Entertainers Gus Wells, rapper and basketball coach Fat Joe, founder of Each One Teach One Bob McCullough, and more. After the speakers were done, the park hosted multiple on-court youth events, including a skill training program and a three-point contest.  

“Rucker Park will once again become that same proving ground with the assistance of the NBPA, NYC Parks, and Legends, while realizing the vision of one man – Holcombe Rucker,” said Chris Rucker, the Founder and CEO of Rucker Brand in a statement. “The NBPA, with NYC Parks, and Legends, an athlete-owned performance and lifestyle apparel brand, are helping to continue the legacy of Holcombe Rucker by ensuring a safe, renovated space for the local community and basketball community at large.”

Rucker has a decades-long history of being a proving ground for local legends and college and pro prospects alike all over the tri-state area.

Bringing the world’s best players in for a game at the highest level seems like the next logical step.