Where Has the “New York City Point Guard” Disappeared To?
Back in the 1990s, the term “New York City Point Guard” became synonymous with players like Kenny Anderson, Kenny Smith, Pearl Washington, and Mark Jackson. Gritty, streetball guys who showed skill that translated seamlessly from local parks to NBA courts. There was a certain balance between flash and fundamentals, and of the era, the five or six guys who made it out of the city to the big time were the kings of New York.
And the term itself is just SO TOUGH. “New York City Point Guard". You can just SEE the highlights at Rucker Park and the Cage when you hear that term. No other city can even come close to that nickname… You don’t want to draft a “Sherman Oaks Point Guard.”
Just a Kid From Coney Island
Anyway, on a plane ride this week, I watched Just a Kid From Coney Island, a recent documentary about Stephon Marbury that went a lot deeper into the surroundings that made him who he was. The film is pretty great, showing us how the ultra-hyped and talented Marbury never got to ride out his NBA glory like some of his contemporaries (Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen) and how he became a trendsetter in professional basketball when he moved to play in China. Happy ending aside, the film has a small segment where three friends of Marbury hang on a rooftop and discuss the great New York City point guards.
Play Ball or Rap
“The BEST players in New York City never made it to the NBA,” friend Bönz Malone points out, referencing how tough it is to avoid street life unless you are laser-focused.
Rapper Cam’ron continues by saying the only legal way out of the “hood” is to play ball or rap… It reminded me of the great Biggie Smalls lyric:
“Because the streets is a short stop/either you’re slinging crack rock/Or you got a wicked jump shot…”
Older sports fans may recall NYC playground legends Pee Wee Kirkland and Earl “The Goat” Manigault. Drugs destroyed both of their lives before they could jump to the professional level. Stephon Marbury had four older brothers with potential NBA game, but they didn’t have the drive to take it to the point of dedicating their lives to it. Marbury did, he made the league and, by all means, should have won a title in Minnesota with Garnett. But instead bounced around the league, fought with coaches, and never lived up to his Hall of Fame potential. With his NBA demise and subsequent move to China, the “New York City Point Guard” has gone the way of the three-man weave. (Raymond Felton has been an okay player… but you know what I’m saying.)
Which is why all eyes are on the NBA Draft on October 16, when a young man who was once assumed to be a top-five pick is on the board and expected to go in the top 25. His name is Cole Anthony, his dad is former NBA player and analyst Greg Anthony, and his game had Slam Magazine calling him the point guard of the future just a couple of years back… Oh, and he grew up in Queens.
Can Cole Anthony put the stigma of the New York player back on the map? He certainly has skills, as he showed in an injury-plagued season at North Carolina averaging 19/6/4. His handles are insane, as nearly every player needs to have to compete these days, and with NBA genetics and a less-than-selfish attitude (or so it seems thus far), Anthony has the city’s eyes on him.
Can this one kid bring the basketball capital of the world back to the forefront of a league where Chicago, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia dwarf New York as far as supplying players to the NBA?
Demise of the "New York City Point Guard"
New York City’s basketball downfall can be placed on a number of things… But the New York Knicks have been woeful for so long now. It’s hard to see young kids getting as excited about their hometown team. Anthony is different. Videos showed him in gyms following High School Graduation at 1:30 in the morning. The Slam article praised his work ethic. His attitude is said to be exemplary. And there’s no denying his skills. Sort of the opposite of what Marbury’s reputation became attitude-wise… (However, reputation or not – watch the documentary and you will become a Marbury believer… even if you disliked him when he was playing. I mean, I saw the film and wanted to go buy those $20.00 signature shoes he released all those years ago.)
And the tears you will shed on his NBA Draft night will surprise you. It’s a beautiful moment watching a kid make it to the NBA from putting in hard work and not just hype and mixtapes like we’re seeing with so many high school players/draftees these days.
Watch out for Cole Anthony. A year ago, he was rated as the second-best point guard in the draft. But, following the injury and a bad record for the North Carolina Tar Heels, his stock dropped. It won’t matter. This kid is special. I’m not sure why some NBA GMs are declaring that they wouldn’t want him to run their offenses. Anthony is young, hungry to prove to people he was better than where he will be drafted. (My prediction is #20 to Miami.) Also, although he’s young, he has the potential to become a Fred VanVleet-type player in a few years… And put New York back on the map.
And if that doesn’t work out, there’s always China…