Posted: 05/14/2011


Sons of the City: New York

by Elaine Hegwood Bowen

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Image Entertainment presents a great DVD called Sons of the City: New York, which is about great basketball players from the great city of New York. There’s no better time to offer this DVD to basketball fans than now during the championship games.

The documentary begins with Chicago Bulls’ Joakim Noah, John Salley, Tom “Snatch” Sanders and others talking up a big game about the legendary history of New York City basketball players: “They eat and sleep basketball; New York City ball players have a cocksure attitude; New York players play with a chip on their shoulders; there’s a swagger with New York City players; New York City is the toughest place to make it but it produced best basketball players.” All in all, New York City was called an unmatched proving ground for great players. The Sons of the City, available on DVD May 17, celebrates the greatest players from New York who lived their dreams of success and stardom in the NBA.

While Chicago’s Derrick Rose has been named the league’s MVP, back in the day, when ol’ skool basketball was being played, Ferdinand “Lewis” Alcindor Jr., later to be known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, had phenomenal titles when he retired: 19-time all-star; 6-time MVP and 6-time NBA champion. Signs that fans displayed while Jabbar was playing for the Los Angeles Lakers said “Kar-eem of the Crop.” Jabbar attended Power Memorial High School, and as a teen became friends with the Boston Celtics’ celebrated coach Red Auerbach. He then went to UCLA, came to the Milwaukee Bucks and helped lead the Bucks to a championship victory in 1971. Jabbar perfected the sky hook and would throw the basketball across the court as if it were a baseball, while wearing his signature space-age goggles. He and Magic Johnson led the Lakers in its “power team” in the late 80s. When he retired in 1989, after 20 years in basketball, Jabbar was the all-time leading scorer with 31,422 career points. Jabbar is one of the basketball greats that I watched as a teen in front of the big television set. Others included in the video are: Nat “Tiny” Archibald, Connie Hawkins, Bernard King, Bob Cousy, Dolph Schayes and Chris Mullin, whom New York City basketball historian Tom Konchalski called “the ultimate New York City gym rat.” Mullin would average 25 points a game with the Golden State Warriors and went on to be a part of the original “dream team.”

Konchalski also called basketball an urban, Eastern, Jewish game, and called Schayes, who went to the Bronx DeWitt Clinton High School, the first, great Jewish star of the NBA.
King is another player who played for the Nets, Golden State Warriors and Utah. In an interview, King said it was a dream to play in New York and that it was a magic carpet ride. “I play because of pride,” he said, while describing a 14-year career, where he averaged 26 points a game as a Knick, hanging off the rim and in 1984 was celebrated with making 50 points during a game—a feat that hadn’t been accomplished since the great 7’1” Wilt Chamberlain. King showed such resilience after he injured his knee while trying to keep up with Kansas City’s Reggie Theus during a 1985 game—an injury that was hard to watch even on video. Afterward, he worked through 18 months of rehab and came back even stronger with a stellar career for the Washington Bullets.

Wilkens was another player who was profiledand who only knew one way to play—and that was hard. He was part of the great tradition of New York point guards and once a player-coach with the Seattle Super Sonics, at age 32—the youngest player-coach. Another great coach who came out of Brooklyn, Auerbach led the Celtics to a record nine titles from 1957 to 1966, and was a “colorful coach,” back when he would smoke a big cigar after a game win. Pat Riley recounts in the documentary that this was analogous to a coach “talking trash talk.”

Cunningham, who was called the Kangaroo Kid and played for the Philadelphia 76ers, also grew up in Brooklyn and said, “there were a limited amount of baseball fields, but there’s always a basketball hoop.” Cunningham debunked the theory that “white men can’t jump,” and he also became a player-coach for the 76ers. Jackson and Salley played together as teens, and Jackson played for the Knicks, Clippers, Indiana Pacers and, according to Sons of the City: New York, was only one of four players to rack up 10,000 assists during his 17-year career.

Archibald is another star and was considered a “fabulous little man” who also went to DeWitt Clinton, which I might add was also the alma mater of the great novelist James Baldwin. I digress, but the video shows Archibald playing great ball against Norm Van Lier, while being labeled the “Allen Iverson of his time.” Hawkins, who was “Michael Jordan 21 years before Michael Jordan.” Sons of the City: New York shows that Hawkins was like a ballet dancer, while moving smoothly across the court and literally “holding the ball like a grapefruit” in one hand. Cousy “revolutionized the back court play, with 18,000 points and 7,000 assists during his career. He and Bill Russell led the Celtics to six NBA titles. “We were just ghetto kids who came charging out of the ghettos,” said Cousy.

And in ghettos across the nation, young boys still dream of NBA stardom. Sons of the City: New York is a definitive record of some of New York’s favorite sons, and is a great DVD to watch. Visit for more information.

Elaine Hegwood Bowen is an editor, writer and film critic in Chicago who just absolutely loved this documentary.

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