Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Streetball Legends Pt. 1...

Many big-time ballers from the streets of NYC never make it to college or the NBA, but their reputations live on. Case in point, Richie Adams, a.k.a. "The Animal" who lived in 3050 Park Avenue(the particular building in question has been known for years as "Vietnam" for the constantly violent ruckuses that are a daily part of life in a typical South Bronx housing project), the same building where former middle and super middleweight boxer Iran "The Blade" Barkley lived.

The first and only time I saw Rich was during a snowstorm one night in the winter of 1995. I was helping an older friend dig his truck out of the snow on 156th street and Concourse Village West when this really tall brother comes walking up the hill sporting the typical ghetto winter uniform-a goose-down jacket with fur-lined hood and brand new Timberland boots. My friend gives him a shout out and asks when he's going to play ball again. Rich turns and says. "I don't know, I'm still waiting for that call, baby!!!"

I asked who that was. My friend replies, "You're too young to know, but that dude is Richie Adams, The Animal. He played at UNLV and was drafted by an NBA team. Word has it that the day he was drafted he was arrested on Fordham Road for stealing a car and never went to the league". (He actually did show up for an NBA tryout but got cut.)

I asked around and the story was confirmed by a few people who were old enough in the early 80's to remember watching this guy play in streetball tournaments all over the Bronx. This guy WAS an animal, but he wasn't very bright and had drug and alcohol abuse problems that lead to his inevitable downfall.

Months later as spring came around I vividly recall this incredibly voluptuous puerto-rican girl walking across the Grand Concourse heading downtown. This young lady stopped traffic she was so fine. A friend of mine turned towards me and said, "Can you believe that girl's only 14 years old? And she's a drug dealer over in Vietnam".

I didn't believe it. No way that's true. Well, turns out it WAS true. I found out when I saw her picture in the New York Daily News later that fall, a grainy, poorly developed facial photo of a young latina who was killed in one of the buildings of the Andrew Jackson projects.

Turns out Richie Adams had murdered her over a money-related dispute. The story goes that he owed her money for drugs, hadn't paid his debt and was after her fiending for more drugs on consignment. There was another story that he was in love with her and she told him she didn't want to hook up with a washed-up crackhead. Whatever the truth was, the argument turned violent and he stomped her to death.

I'm not trying to make excuses for this guy, but from all accounts he had a weak will, always followed the wrong crowd and had a severe learning disability that went undiagnosed. Mix that up with an acute drug/alcohol problem, there is no amount of talent in the world that will save you from yourself.

If I could field a basketball team just from my neighborhood of guys like this, I wouldn't even have to coach them. I would just throw the ball out and let them tear everyone they play to shreds.

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