On Saturday night the words on the tip of every basketball fan’s tongue weren’t “lock out,” but rather “lock up,” as Red Bull King of the Rock took place in The Yard of the former prison of Alcatraz.
The one-on-one basketball tournament brought 64 of the best players from 13 countries to face off in one of the most notorious locations on earth. Amidst the crumbling walls and the eerily-lit cell house, the players battled each other and the environment to prove their worth on the court.
Of course, there can be only one king, and at the end of the night it was Hugh “Baby Shaq” Jones from Washington D.C. who was left standing to take the crown.
One on One and One of a Kind
First held in 2010, Red Bull King of the Rock is the only official sporting event held on Alcatraz and the first time basketball has been played on the hard concrete of The Rock since the inmates left the island more than 50 years ago.
This year the event expanded its reach, including players not only from the United States but also Canada, Spain, Germany, France, Lithuania, Slovenia, Serbia, Romania, Ukraine, Turkey, Israel and Hong Kong.
“I won’t lie, the competition really made me work tonight..." -Winner Hugh "Baby Shaq" Jones
One-on-one basketball can be difficult enough -- no one to pass to, no one to help -- but coupling it with the desolation of Alcatraz makes for one of the most solitary forms of the game imaginable. The 64 players put on their best game faces, relying on endurance and composure as they battled through fierce competition, cold temperatures and the worn concrete courts.
A select group of guests cheered and shouted encouragement from their seats just beneath the soft glow of the cell house windows. With four courts in simultaneous game play, the action was intense and non-stop.
Each player on The Rock had worked hard to earn their spot, and after all of their blood, sweat and tears, they weren’t going to go down easily. The opening rounds of play saw furious intensity, where some players burned themselves out early and others played a smarter game, leaving some gas in the tank for later rounds.
Izeah “Clutch” Bowman, 2010 Champion, gave a valiant performance in his quest to reclaim his crown, making it to the top 16. The former King fell in the third round however, as he was defeated in a close match by Dalane Finley, a qualifier from Norfolk, Virginia.
The Final Game
As the night progressed, the 64 players dwindled steadily down until only two remained: Hugh “Baby Shaq” Jones from Washington D.C. and Lance Perique from New Orleans, Louisiana. The matchup was a close one at first, with Jones dominating under the hoop and Perique draining three-pointers to keep up. As the game wore on, Jones pulled ahead and never looked back, using his awesome power to win the game by the wide margin of 18 to 9.
Jones, nicknamed “Baby Shaq” for his dominance in the paint, is a streetball legend and a former member of the AND 1 Mix Tape Tour. Focused from the minute he stepped foot on The Rock, Jones was on a mission to come away the champ. Mission accomplished.
“I won’t lie, the competition really made me work tonight, but I’m glad I ended up on top,” said Jones. “It always feels good to be a champion, and even better than that, tonight I’m a one-on-one champion -- I did it all by myself.”
“Baby Shaq proved to be the best of the best on Alcatraz tonight,” said All-Star guard Rajon Rondo. “This was one-on-one ball at its finest with every player working hard to take the crown.”
The one-of-a-kind competition started with an inspiring spoken-word performance by Tony Award-winning poet, artist and actor Lemon Anderson. He set the emotional tone for the night with a verse that sent chills through the players and spectators, stating, “There is history here. Bring it hard to the yard, boys ballin' to the extreme on Alcatraz. This is Red Bull balling on the Rock, where there can only be one King."
Following his performance, the island echoed with a soulful version of the National Anthem performed by RCA Records recording artist CJ Hilton.
As the contest whittled down to the round of eight, the guests left the concrete bleachers and crowded the court to witness the slam dunk competition. Hosted by well-known dunk artist Kenny “The Innovator” Dobbs, a handful of players took turns performing their best jams and trying to impress the judges.
In the end it was Phoenix qualifier Gary Smith who won the contest with an impressive alley-oop off the side of the backboard. Not to be outdone, Dobbs wowed the crowd with some dunks of his own -- defying gravity by dunking over three people.
Both the Qualifiers and the Finals on Alcatraz followed a straightforward concept where players went head-to-head in raw outdoor basketball, using a single-elimination tournament bracket. Games lasted five minutes and were subject to regulation hoops rules and scoring (two and three pointers).
Players had to be tough to make it to The Rock, but also had to play smart – five fouls equaled an automatic loss. After each game, the loser walked, and the winner faced his next opponent.
An hour-long Red Bull King of the Rock television show is slated to air on CBS; check back for details on the broadcast date.
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