- National Teams
With Quai 54, the world’s largest streetball tournament tipping off this weekend, and it once again featuring British team Midnight Madness, Hoopsfix teamed up with House of Hoops Foot Locker to get out there and cover the whole thing.
Now in its 11th year after a one-year hiatus, Jordan Brand and Nike sponsor the event which features over 200 streetballers from across the globe in a win or go home tournament with one of the most iconic backdrops on the planet (the Eiffel tower, incase you didn’t know).
The Midnight Madness lineup features: Germayne Forbes, Perry Lawson, Paul Guede, Orlan Jackman, Jamell Anderson, Myles Hesson, Matthew Bryan-Amaning (#HASC14 MVP), Dan Clark, Allie Fullah and Fahro Alihodzic.
The side will be coached by Junior Williams and Midnight Madness big boss/founder, Nhamo Shire.
Team Midnight Madness held a practice at Hackney SPACE Centre in preparation for the three days ahead, going through basic walk throughs and sets. Ran by Coach Junior Williams, he emphasised the importance of winning the battle on the glass out in Paris, saying the teams in the French tournament will be physical and relentless.
After practice, guys went back to their hotels/houses and rested up for an early start in the morning – their train was at 7:40am.
I on the other hand, had to head home, pack my stuff, charge my cameras/clear my hard drives, and then head to Kings Cross Station. With my Eurostar booked for 5:40am, I didn’t want to risk missing it by catching night buses etc, so prepared myself for a rough night in the station lol.
With the Quai 54 qualifiers (there were two more spots up for grabs for French teams) starting at 9am on the Friday (main tournament is just Saturday and Sunday), I didn’t want to miss anything.
Not gonna lie, it was a rough night, not to mention it being freezing! I think Kings Cross station purposely put the arm rests on the benches so people can’t lie across them and so that made it incredibly inconvenient to contort your body around them. I got around 2 hours sleep in half hour blocks, before giving up at 4am ish and going to sit in Costa Coffee with my laptop.
It was a lot more comfortable once I got on the Eurostar, and I was out cold for the entire journey, arriving in Paris at 9:10 in the morning. On arrival, I picked up a metro ticket and caught the train to West Paris to Stade Leo LaGrange where the qualifiers were held.
For some reason, I had assumed they would be in an indoor gym, but true to nature, they were held on two outdoor courts adjacent to one another. Hearing old school hip hop blaring as soon as I got out of the station, I knew I was in the right place.
After meeting Almamy, one of the tournament organisers, I was relieved to know I hadn’t missed anything and promptly got set up and ready to film – the sun was shining, it was hot, it was a perfect start.
There were two teams who were a cut above the rest on the day, Kings of Congo (pictured below), featuring a group of incredibly talented young French players, led by Kevin Dinal, who everyone said is one of the best U20s in the country, and Abdou Diagne, an athletic wing with range to the three point line, and team Staff Medical.
There were a lot of athletes on show.
Kings of Congo (picture) and Staff Medical are the 2 qualified teams. Congrats! See you tomorrow! pic.twitter.com/9UdLeNtuAp
Both teams qualified as lower seeds for the tournament and will be matched up with two top teams come Saturday. I focused on Kings of Congo (with two courts running, I had to pick & choose!) and they didn’t dissapoint with highlights – full video coming soon, but in the meantime here is the dunk of the day from Kevin Dinal.By the time the qualifiers finished it was late afternoon, enough time for me to get lost while trying to find my hotel, before getting in, editing a little bit real quick then having a nap. The teams met at the Trocadero (where the tournament is taking place) at 6pm for a briefing before receiving all their kit (fully swagged out!) for the tournament starting in the morning. I finished editing a short mix of Kings of Congo about 11pm, left it rendering before hitting the sack (it is currently uploading – internet upload speed in here is SLOW!).
As soon as I arrived at the Trocadero and saw the court with the Eiffel Tower behind I was blown away! The setup is so so sick. After a little queue to get my media wristband, I got in to work out where I’m gonna be filming from for the weekend – not easy with limited space and lots of people constantly moving around (and getting in the way!).
Within about 10 minutes it became quite apparent that not bringing suntan lotion or a hat, despite the advice of many, many people, was going to be a huge mistake. It got HOT.The games, which were 12 minute running clock halves, had already began and the majority of the stands were empty as they were still letting people in.
The biggest upset of the day came courtesy of the Serbia team, Novi Sad, who defeated the Americans as they became the first side from the US in Quai 54 history to suffer a first round defeat. By early afternoon we were already halfway through the games and I started to think there was no way that it’s going to run until 10pm at the current rate.
It soon became clear that what takes up the rest of the time is entertainment; musicians (including a French rapper who walked off during his second set because he couldn’t hear the music in his earpiece), dancers, and crowd involvement games.
One of the best things about Quai54 is the spontaneous, unscripted moments that happen with all the crowd involvement games. Dance contests happen at least a few times a day, and no-one got a bigger cheer than a 7 year old girl who out-danced her older counter-parts at centre court.
Aside from that, the MC has no hesitation pulling people out from the crowd to rip them to pieces for what they are wearing, much to the crowd’s delight. At one point a game was literally stopped as a guy dressed head to toe in the most outrageous bright yellow ‘designer’ gear (see below) was paraded to half court and shredded to pieces.
He gave as good as he got though (being quite rude in the process, from what I could make out), only for the crowd to start chanting kick him out! The MC was kind enough to let him stay in, and eventually he got upgraded to the VIP tribune for the remainder of the day.
— #CDOUXDEH MOKOBE (@Mokobe113) June 21, 2014
Featuring a roster not short of talent, they were feeling good about their chances, and despite starting the game on a two handed Fahro Alihodzic dunk it was swiftly downhill from there. Hood Mix immediately responded with a no look lob pass from just gone half court to their big man for a dunk, before getting another throw down a moment later.
Madness looked overwhelmed at times, and struggled to deal with the pressure effectively, failing to take care of the ball and unable to keep Hood Mix off the glass.
They went down big early and were never really in the game, losing 32-20 to suffer another first round exit, leaving Nhamo and Junior Williams reassessing their strategy for next year.
One positive for the UK team from the day was Midnight Madness’ very own Germayne Forbes picking up the three point shooting contest title.
Day 1 Results
Next Level 20-23 Open Run Elite
Evolution Academy 30-16 Kingz of Congo
La Releve 30-20 Staff Medical
La Famine 19-24 Aguibasket
Django Squad 21-18 Ghetto Family
L.Y.T.E. Ballers 18-23 Novi Sad
No Spain No Game 33-19 Der Stamm
Hood Mix 32-20 Midnight Madness
1st Quarter Finals
Open Run Elite 28-25 Evolution Academy
2nd Quarter Finals
Aguibasket 10-23 Django Squad
I wanted to try to get up the Eiffel Tower that evening, but the queues were huge and with it being 10:30pm already I needed to get back to the hotel to edit a bit. Though all the travel I get to do with Hoopsfix is amazing, and I would never complain about it, it is not as glamorous as it may seem; very often my time is spent between a basketball court somewhere and my hotel room editing video/writing with very little time to do anything else.
With mass confusion about the scheduling, I arrived at the venue at 11am thinking the opening game of the day was at midday, only to find out it was meant to be at 10am but was delayed. Good news for me, as I hadn’t missed anything and had more time to sort out a filming location – the entire setup had changed and it was clear it was going to be a LOT busier than yesterday.
A TV platform had been brought in – the semi-finals onwards was being live streamed – and was directly impinging on the half decent spot I had to film in the day before. I moved to one of the baseline corners, which was far from ideal, but better than nothing.
I had once again failed to buy sunscreen (the shop I went to had none), and one again quickly regretted it.
The un-scripted moment of the Sunday was a half court shoot-out. With the announcers having got 4 guys and 4 girls on court to try their luck, Quai 54 founder Hammadoun Sidibe, interrupted the competition to announce if anyone hit the shot they would win 50 pairs of Jordans.
All four guys went through with the closest effort bouncing off the left of the rim. Then the ladies stepped up. On her first attempt, a long Brunette took a couple of steps, launched a shot that looked off right only for it to hit the bottom of the net. Cue the madness as the court was stormed, she was hoisted up on to someone’s shoulders and the crowd went wild. Awesome.
After the remaining semi-finals had been played, it was time for the dunk contest presented by House of Hoops by Foot Locker. There was reason to be excited, with five of the unquestionable best dunkers in the world – Guy Dupuy, Justin Darlington, Rafal Lipinski, Chris Staples, and Porter Mayberry – having been flown in to show off their aerial artistry.
As soon as they got on court for warm-ups it became clear the crowd were in for a treat, with all of them, most notably Lipek and Guy Dupuy, throwing some some insane ‘warm ups’ that would get straight 50s in most contests.
The contest started with both Dupuy and Chris Staples making their first attempts – not easy dunks either – and I started to think this could end up being one of the most epic contests I’ve ever witnessed. Most dunk contests are killed by one thing – missed dunks/multiple attempts, which suck the energy out of the crowd, bore the judges and fatigue the dunkers. If guys are making their first or second attempts, it should mean the contest will only get better as it goes on.
However, the first two proved to be exceptions. From there, the misses began, and though the makes were damn impressive (I’m pretty pleased with the final edit – see below), the overall contest live dragged on a bit.
It was Rafal Lipinski who took the crown – with the best dunk of the night being a pump reverse over dunking legend Kadour Ziani standing on a chair. It send the crowd wild and the judges on their feet; Carmelo Anthony making his numbers up to a 100 instead of the maximum of 10 to show his approval.
By the time the final came round, it all felt quite anti-climatic. The music had stopped playing and the crowd seemed to be sapped of energy – 12 hours of intense heat with no escape to the shade will do that to you!
Hood Mix secured a come from behind win to be crowned the 2014 Quai 54 World Streetball Champions.
With the day running drastically behind schedule, the court was immediately transformed into a stage area for French Montana to put on an impromptu concert, at which point I made a swift exit back to the hotel to edit the dunk contest.
Day 2 Results
3rd Quarter Finals
(Spain) No Spain No Game 32-36 La Releve (France)
4th Quarter Finals
(France) Hood Mix 37-24 Novi Sad (Serbia)
(Netherlands) Open Run Elite 23-27 La Relève (France)
(France) Hood Mix beat Django Squad (France)
Hood Mix 69-64 La Relève