Red Bull Midnight Run displays Philadephia's basketball talent
On Saturday evening, in a sweaty gym tucked away in the center of historic Girard College, Red Bull held its Midnight Run; a tournament searching for the city's top basketball talent.
Hundreds of players from Philadelphia and its surrounding areas descended on the diminutive gym at Girard in order to compete for a chance to represent Philadelphia at a nation-wide battle at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn this fall.
Out of the 100 prospects, a group made up of D-League hopefuls, street ballers, former college players, and high school standouts, eight were to be selected to represent the city.
Washington D.C., Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Indianapolis, Houston, and New Orleans would be sending their own representatives as well in a bid to determine which city has the best ballers.
The armory, as Girard's gym is sometimes referred to, seems as though it would be slightly stuffy on one of summer's cooler days, which Saturday didn't happen to be.
Glad that I opted for basketball shorts and a t-shirt, I took a seat toward the back of the barren bleachers, making sure that I could see the action on both courts which would be running games simultaneously.
After receiving a complimentary can of Red Bull and being briefed on the tournament's breakdown; 5-on-5, games to 11 or seven minutes, with ones and twos, I was ready to observe the action.
Almost immediately I noticed a sharp dichotomy between the players; some players' skills were completely polished, while others, admittedly, hadn't been keeping on the court.
"I've been laying low," stated Jarett Kearse when I asked him if he had been practicing for the Run.
The event was low on top-name talent, but I recognized Kearse from his days on the AND1 mixtape tour and was eager to get to ask him a couple questions about the event.
"I'm not expecting too much [competition]," he joked, "but there's a lot of good guys here."
The discrepancy seen on the court made the event interesting, as each possession offered the opportunity for an athletic alley-oop, or potentially, a poor pass. You never quite knew what was going to happen, but the action was exciting.
The effort was there as well, as most players seemed to play as hard as their current conditioning allowed.
"Man, I'm dead," another player exclaimed coming off the court before flopping down in front of a fan.
The event exuded an AAU-style atmosphere, with players socializing and uploading Instagram images between battles, and you couldn't help but appreciate the fact that everyone in the gym was there strictly because of a passion and appreciation for the game.
"I was just looking for a good run, and to see what I could do against some good competition," Koron Reed, a standout player from one of the Run's earliest games, informed me.
DJ Damage, of 107.9 FM, was there bumping beats throughout the evening, which only added to the streetball-esque atmosphere of the event. The games were completed in rapid succession, with mere minutes between contests, providing each player with plenty of opportunities to prove themselves, and most didn't let the opportunity go to waste.
After about an hour of watching games and tirelessly typing notes into my iPhone, a participant seated on the bleachers a couple rows ahead of me leaned back and asked:
"Don't you have anything better to do tonight?"
I grinned, realizing that spare a couple sponsors, event organizers, and maybe another media member or two, the event didn't draw much fanfare.
I chuckled, sort of at my own expense. In actuality however, I was extremely appreciative of the opportunity to get to watch talented players playing for respect and pride, without money being the main motivator. It is a pure form of the game, and a breath of fresh air for someone accustomed to covering professional players.
Plus I didn't have anything better to do anyway.
The eight players that will represent Philadelphia at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn have not yet been announced, so it is difficult to determine how the roster will stack up against other cities at this point.
Does Philadelphia have the best ballers? Maybe. I guess that will be determined this fall in Brooklyn.
Regardless of whatever happens on the hardwood however, Philadelphia always has, and continues to produce a lot of talented, passionate players, and this was on full display at Red Bull's Midnight Run Saturday evening.