Playing basketball professionally is not something Rafer Alston does anymore, however his legend still lives among many NBA and streetball fans across the world.
Rafer’s popularity rose after the release of the AND1 Mixtape back in 1999. He was able to bring the streetball moves to the NBA and is respected across the league for his ability to adapt to a totally different style of ball. The Queens, N.Y., native played 11 seasons with six teams in the NBA, averaging 10.1 points, 4.8 assists and 2.8 rebounds for his career.
If you were matched up against him on the floor, there is a huge possibility you will have a long and tormented night. It really didn’t matter who went up against him, Rafter’s goal was to embarrass you.
“He’s caught me. I ain’t gonna lie,” Stephon Marbury told SLAM back in 1997. “When you’re playing against Rafer Alston, you’re liable to get embarrassed. You know it’s gonna happen.”
Alston started playing on the streets of New York at the age of just 12 years old. Because of his height, he initially received a nickname “Shorty” on the playgrounds. It wasn’t long before Rafer received the name we all know him for which is “Skip to My Lou”.
“In New York City, Rucker Park. I came down, did a move, starting skipping with the ball. And then the commentators on the microphone just started calling me ‘Skip to My Lou.’ I had no idea that it would make me such a playground legend. You’re a young kid, you’re just happy to be on the floor playing ball.”
He also said he was never aware of the fame that was involved around him when people started recognizing his game: “I never thought about the playground buzz I was getting. When you’re a young kid living in New York City, basketball is everywhere. It comes with the territory. So you don’t think about it like that.”
When Rafer entered the NBA there wasn’t much faith among NBA staff he could adjust to a totally different style of game.
“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.
With everything that happened to him, Rafer’s ultimate goal was to play in the NBA. It took a lot of hard work and a bit of luck but he achieved something many thought was impossible for a player like Rafer was.
“For me, it was like a breath of fresh air because of the path I put myself through … not getting it done as far as the classroom in high school and having to go to junior college, and then go to Division I (Fresno State). Some of us take the path less traveled and that’s what happened to me. I persevered and kept working hard.
Over his 11-year stint in the League, you’d see these occasional flashes of “Skip.” The quick handles. The deadly crossover. The behind-the-back assists. Just toying with defenders who dared to put pressure on.
Alston is now a scout for the Milwaukee Bucks and is still living his dream.