When players hooped it up at 16th and Susquehanna

Posted: December 04, 2013

STREETBALL legend Aaron "AO" Owens honed his basketball skills on the playground at 16th and Susquehanna.

The North Philly court is gone, but Owens fondly remembers the games, players, fans and, most of all, the atmosphere.

"I remember the energy. I was a young guy [in the early-1990s] and I got to play with college and pro players. It was like a carnival," Owens told the Daily News yesterday.

"There were food carts and people selling clothes. There were [hundreds of] people watching. The court was so small that you couldn't shoot a three from the corner.

"The highest level of basketball [then] was 'street.' I played on the Toss It Up teams with Sad Eyes [Bryant Watson], Hot Rod [Rodney Odrick], Levan Alston, Kareem Townes, Rasual Butler and Donnie Carr."

It was Philly's version of New York's Rucker League, and those not lucky enough to experience it firsthand will soon be able to go back in time via a documentary titled "16th and Philly."

The film, produced by Isaiah Nathaniel and Diamond Eye Sports, is scheduled to premier on Feb. 6 at the African American Museum. After that it will be shown at various neighborhood sites as part of Black History Month festivities.

"I'm proud we are able to bring a glimpse of Philadelphia basketball history to Philadelphia and the nation," Nathaniel said in a statement.

Nathaniel was part of that history. He played at the playground, at Central High and Delaware State.

Along with AO, who played at Gratz and is still doing exhibitions at age 39, others who balled at the playground include Joe Parham, Doug Overton, Hank Gathers, and Lionel Simmons.

Nathaniel wants to give back to the community and is planning to donate a portion of the film's proceeds to rebuilding the 16th Street facility.

For more information and to view a trailer of the film go to www.16thandphilly.com.

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