Growing up in Philly, you only need to walk by a basketball court and you will probably see or hear something about the storied hoops history in the City of Brotherly Love.
On May 22, many of the people who helped build that tradition were all in one place, laughing uninhibitedly, reliving old stories and relishing in the camaraderie born from hard-fought battles on the hardwood.
The Baker League movie gives the viewer a capsule in the time of an era when local NBA, semi-pro, college and select high school players helped mold their own games in a crucible of summertime roundball battles that simultaneously shaped and defined what Philadelphia basketball is all about.
After starring in the same backcourt at Northeast High in the 1950s, Sonny Hill and James "Tee" Parham helped found the Charles Baker Memorial League in 1960. The Baker League began at 25th and Diamond Streets before moving to Bright Hope Baptist Church until its final home at McGonigle Hall at Temple University.
It was surreal seeing and shaking hands with some of the names and faces in attendance at the movie premiere. La Salle legend Lionel Simmons was just one of the former players who reflected on his unparalleled experience with the Baker League. The "L-Train" put it simply, saying that there were no "nights off."
Players showed up with something to prove because this was the epicenter of earning your name among the Philly basketball elite. The games were tough and tightly contested. Seeing Earl Monroe show up at halftime and go for 50 points was not uncommon. Neither was the presence of Wilt Chamberlain, or later on, 76ers like Charles Barkley and Maurice Cheeks.
It may be a popular saying now, but the Baker League movie premiere proved ball is life for many of the people who put Philly basketball on the map.
It debuts on CSN on Thursday at 9 p.m. and also will air Saturday at 3:30 p.m. (TCN), Friday June 9 at 6:30 p.m. (CSN) and Saturday June 10 at 6 p.m. (TCN).