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"It was a sanitized image" -- Netflix's AND1 documentary director on how the '90s streetball brand changed the game

Wilson Jr. explained how AND1's popularity helped bring more fans to watch the NBA.
AND1 icon Rafer Alston aka "Skip 2 my Lou"

Rafer Alston

In case you still haven’t watched Netflix's "Untold: The Rise and Fall of AND1," do it as soon as possible. The story of the super popular '90s streetball brand provides valuable insight into the business side of the company and players’ lives, with plenty of footage displaying all the dazzling skills which made AND1 so successful back in the day.

AND1 brought basketball closer to everyone

Documentary director Kevin Wilson Jr. recently gave an interview in which he shared his own personal experience that made AND1 important to him as a young basketball fan growing up in North Carolina. Needless to say, the same was true for so many kids growing up.

“I was maybe 10 or 11 years old when AND1 came out and it was the perfect time because it was cats who looked like me and my cousins who were finding their way into the mainstream. Growing up in Durham, North Carolina, which was basically Duke University and North Carolina basketball, those guys had to wear suits and ties which is cool but it was a sanitized image," Wilson Jr. said.

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"So when AND1 came out, it just changed the whole game. I'm a huge Tar Heel fan but we couldn't afford to go to those games at the Dean Smith Center or Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium. No one made it accessible for us. It was only when AND 1 came to town that we could catch a game."

Kevin Wilson Jr., Ebony

Not only did AND1 make basketball more accessible, both in terms of games and merchandise, but it also made sure to bring it “in your face” with the trash-talking, T-Shirts, and the never before seen moves on the AND1 mixtapes.

The bottom line was that basketball became closer to everyone. But the other reason AND1 became as popular as it did was their relationship with NBA players. Stephon Marbury became the company's first NBA ambassador and he was later joined by the likes of Vince Carter, Latrell Sprewell, Kevin Garnett, Jamal Crawford, and Chauncey Billups who won the 2004 NBA Finals MVP award while wearing the AND1 Rises.

The biggest star

While the list of NBA players who became endorsers of AND1 is quite impressive, there is definitely one baller who is without a doubt more important to the company than all of them. Although he initially exploded onto the scene under his “Skip 2 my Lou” nickname, Rafer Alston soon became the first streetballer from the AND1 Mixtape tour to make it all the way to the NBA.

"They already had a perception that I was just a streetball player. That's something we just do in the summertime. They didn't know that. I studied the game, I knew the game and I was a natural point guard. I knew how to run the team. I knew how to keep my turnovers down. The only thing that was really a problem was my range shooting and getting my strength up. But defending the ball, finding the open man, hitting the guy on target, those things were natural for me,” Alston said.

Rafer ended up having a solid NBA career that lasted from 1999 to 2010 and included a trip to Finals in 2009 with the Magic.

A lot of time has passed and much has changed since AND1 was the king of the court, but all the fans who witnessed its meteoric rise will always remember how much it meant for the game. Since the company is still in business even today it is not beyond the realm of possibility that they make a comeback to relevance. 

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