Jay-Z, photographed signing autographs at the infamous Rucker Park basketball courts in Harlem on July 8, 2003.
That Summer Jay, an avid basketball fan, decided to put together an all-star team to make a one-time challenge for the “Entertainers Basketball Classic” (EBC) trophy. To achieve this he would have to unseat the defending champions: Fat Joe’s “Terror Squad” team. Joey Crack’s team boasted rugged NBA players such as Stephon Marbury and Ron Artest, both of whom had honed their skills in New York school yards. Jigga was unfazed: “I’m going to bring this team together. I’m only going to do it once, and obviously I plan to win.”
The “S. Carter” power clique would include two Rucker veterans, rebound machine John “Franchise” Strickland and sweet shooter Reggie “Hi-5” Freeman, along with NBA players Lamar Odom, LeBron James, Tracy McGrady, Jamal Crawford, Kenyon Martin, and Sebastian Telfair. If squad numbers were looking low, Jay had the power to make a few calls and have them on a private jet, flying to Harlem for his teams next game.
Hov’s team made it all the way to the final game of the championship, with high hopes of taking away the trophy resting on their secret weapon, Shaquille O’Neal—who was waiting in a New York City hotel for Jay’s call. On August 14 in the final game they were due to face Joey’s “Terror Squad" team; but disaster struck the day of the final: a massive blackout had engulfed New York City, leaving over 55 million citizens in the United States and Canada without electricity for nearly 24 hours. Tournament organizers planned to reschedule the game for the following week, but there was a major problem: Jay had already booked a private jet for August 15 to fly himself and Beyoncé to Europe for a two-week vacation. This was one of their first vacations together, so, as committed as he was to his basketball team, he refused to reschedule or cancel the trip and risk alienating Bey in the early stages of their relationship.
Without Hov operating as the plug to bring in the big names the “S. Carter” team would officially forfeit the match, meaning the “Terror Squad” were uncontested back-to-back champions. Putting his girlfriend over attending the game would mean that the beef between Jay and Fat Joe became stronger than ever.
During the tournament Jay had enlisted hip-hop pioneer and friend Fred “Fab Five Freddy” Brathwaite to capture behind-the-scenes footage. He planned to release it as a DVD documentary, alongside footage of the opening of The40/40 Club and the release of the first Reebok “S. Carter Collection.” When Jay got back from his European holiday he told Fab to stop working on the film, and the project was dead. Fab’s tapes contain hours of footage, from candid interactions between Jay and his players, to shots of some of the best basketball ever to grace The Rucker. Yet they will most likely forever remain filed away, destined to fall short of the public eye.