THE NYC POINT GUARD
“A New York City point guard would give up his girlfriend and his gold before he gave up his dribble…”
-Ziggy, Brooklyn USA
The rosters of the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets this coming season will have two outstanding point guards. Jason Kidd and Deron Williams will be running the show for their respective teams; Kidd at 33rd and 8th, Williams at Flatbush and Atlantic.
Kidd is originally from California, Williams from Texas.
When I think of basketball in New York City, three things come to mind; school yards, Kareem Abdul-Jabber and the point guard.
As a Brooklyn native who has coached at the AAU, high school and college level, I want to know, “What happened to the New York City-born point guard?
Understand one thing: I ask this question in all seriousness and do not mean any disrespect by it.
The point guard in basketball, also known as the “one” is usually the player who brings the ball up the court and runs the show. Their main job is to get the team into the offense and push the ball up the court in transition.
It’s arguably the most important position on the floor. Some call the point guard the quarterback.
Solid point guards are hard to come by. They don’t grow on trees. It takes a special player to become a good point guard. The point guard is an extension of the coach on the floor. He or she is under control, alert, usually possess a high basketball I.Q. and not afraid to be the team leader. They are selfless and sacrifice part of their game for the good of the team.
Over the years playmakers like Dick McGuire, Bob Cousy, Lenny Wilkins, Dean Meminger, Nate Archibald, Butch Lee, Mark Jackson, Kenny Smith, Rod Strickland, Stephon Marbury and Kenny Anderson have all played on the concrete battlegrounds across New York City. The schoolyard was the breeding ground for a city player. It was in the school yards where you learned how to compete. Race, class, and age do not matter the minute you walk through the chain-link fence. If you come in peace and are there to play ball, it’ll be a wonderful experience.
“Put ten point guards out on the court and you can tell which one’s are from New York City,” Mark Jackson said.
A free education in basketball was going up against the older players. I’m not so sure kids do that anymore; “playing up” is what my guy Herb Welling calls it.
In New York City, when you play pick-up ball, you become part of a special group; it’s a connection to the game. It’s you, the ball, the court and your teammates.
The Big Apple has produced tough point guards that could lead a team, score, break a press and of course, share the pill. Scanning the NBA rosters and watching college basketball around the country, the number of high quality point guards from the city has gone down.
I never saw Bob Cousy play in person but I have read so much about him and have watched many highlights. Cousy played at Andrew Jackson High School in Queens where he made the all-city team and took his talents to Holy Cross College where he became a three-time All-American. Cousy went on to earn all-NBA honors for thirteen years while playing on six NBA championship teams.
Wilkens, a southpaw from Boys High went on to play his college ball at Providence and later went on to nine NBA all-star appearances. Wilkens became a coach in the NBA, winning a championship with the Seattle SuperSonics in 1979.
Steve Hobbs, a Prep School basketball coach has been around the game a long time, “I think a lot of has to do with the NBA. These hybrid scoring point guards are so marketed. It is not cool to be a point guard to lead and run the team. Now, this doesn’t just affect NYC, but it has definitely infiltrated NYC.”
In 1973, Archibald led the NBA in scoring and assists. Archibald went to Arizona Western College before transferring to UTEP, where he averaged 20.0 points in three seasons playing for Don Haskins. “Nate the Skate” won a ring with the Boston Celtics.
From 1986 to 1988 we saw Mark Jackson, Kenny Smith, Kenny Hutchinson, Pearl Washington and Rod Strickland all come out of the city. Jackson had a great high school career at Bishop Loughlin and later went on to St. John’s University. After 17 years in the NBA he is currently the head coach of the Golden State Warriors. Smith excelled at Archbishop Molloy, was a teammate of Michael Jordan at North Carolina and won two NBA championships with the Houston Rockets. Pearl’s NBA career never progressed. In high school at Boys High, this guy did it all. He dribbled the ball like it was a yo-yo.
The scouting report on a NYC point guard was to back off them and let them shoot from the outside; in the city, playing outdoors, the wind was always blowing so guys took the ball to the rack.
Strickland, a native of the Boogie Down and currently on John Calipari’s coaching staff at Kentucky, played 17 years in the NBA and had an outstanding college career at DePaul in which he was a two-time All-American.
Stephon Marbury had many good seasons in the NBA. If you saw him at Lincoln high school you know what I’m talking about. Marbury is from Coney Island where he is a legend. His cousin, Sebastian Telfair, was a celebrated high school point guard who currently plays in the NBA. Marbury was hailed as the next great NYC floor general from a young age, when he earned the nickname “Starbury”.
Work ethic, attitude, outside shooting, defense, being coachable, and making the right decisions are vital to a point guards success. Behaving “off the court” is also critical.
Do New York City guards still want to “thread the needle”?
Do they still want to “set the table”?
Do they want to make their four teammates better? Do they want to lead? How about working on their dribbling? How about watching film of point guards in the past and learning how to run the show?
Despite having a gift, being the most talented on your high school team, one must work harder than any other. A point guard must have determination, they must be tough and have unshakable confidence.
Is the New York City point guard a dying breed?
A thing of the past?
“We (NYC) have suffered the last ten years,” said Jackson.