ESPN Rise Feature | Rucker to Venice streetball series, Part 6

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Original Article : rise.espn.go.com | Victoria Sun 08/04/10

Rucker to Venice streetball series, Part 6 | Video

The Lab concocts Chicago’s best ballers

The Chicago streetball scene is known for an array of demanding courts. Thanks to the Brand Jordan League each summer, The Lab’s talent stands out among the rest.

Each week through the end of August, ESPNHS will take an inside look at some of the nation’s most well-known streetball courts leading up to the 2010 Boost Mobile Elite 24, to be played in Venice Beach, Calif., on Aug. 28. Next week, we visit Fonde Rec Center in Houston.

Name: The Lab
Location: 5900 S. Kenwood Ave., inside University of Chicago Lab School
League info: The Brand Jordan League runs from June to August. Unless you have Jordanesque skills, don’t try to get in. There are eight teams made up of former NBA and college players — and an extensive waiting list.
Court setup: Eight courts
Surface: Regulation hardwood
Rim style: Nylon nets
Lights (yes/no): Yes
Best time for a run: Even pick-up games are invitation only
Level of competition (pickup): 10
Level of competition (summer league): 9.5
Style of play: 5-on-5
Unwritten rules: No drinking, smoking, fighting or gambling allowed. Only the best players are allowed to switch teams if they lose.
Today’s top ballers: President Barack Obama, Michael Jordan (on occasion), Tony Allen, Shannon Brown, Tim Hardaway, Kendall Gill, Randy Brown, Kenny Norman, Kevin Edwards, Antoine Walker and Charles Oakley.
Streetball legends: Paul McPherson, Tony Bennett, Michael Herman and Anthony Harris.

Overtime: From Foster to Le Claire to Fosco Park, locals love to debate which Windy City streetball court has the most talent.

Ever since Tony McCoy, founder/president of the Sports Factory Inc., settled into the Lab in late May after a stint at Fosco Park, the answer is clear.

Let’s start with His Airness.

Michael Jordan stops by to watch the Brand Jordan League action. Sometimes, he’ll hoop at the Lab to keep his skills sharp.

And whenever President Barack Obama is in town, he gets his basketball fix at the Lab. While the Obama family lived in the Windy City, daughters Malia and Sasha attended the University of Chicago Lab School.

McCoy was fortunate enough to compete against Obama during an organized pickup game Memorial Day weekend.

“It was a great experience to be around the most powerful man in the world,” McCoy said.  “He’s real competitive and he doesn’t like to lose … He has a real high basketball IQ and you can’t leave him open.”

If the Lab is good enough for the President, it must be special.

Numerous former NBA players (Tim Hardaway, Charles Oakley and Kendall Gill, among others) and current pros (Tony Allen and Shannon Brown) converge here to hoop. Local legends like Paul McPherson, who played at DePaul but was never drafted, and Tony Bennett also call the Lab home.

“I call him a freak, because he’s a freak of nature,” McCoy says of McPherson. “He didn’t get drafted, but he is an incredible talent.

He adds: “Tony Bennett is the man in Chicago. He just goes off and he’ll drop 45 or 50 points on you.”

Even the officials at the Lab are official. Several NBA and D-League refs call league games.

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