It’s been nearly a decade since Kevin Durant’s 66-point outburst at Rucker Park, yet Cardozo’s high school coach Ron Naclerio still remembers virtually every detail of that legendary night.
“That was the best shooting display I’ve ever seen at The Rucker,” Naclerio, the winningest basketball coach of all time in the history of the New York City Public Schools Athletic League, said Monday. “He was helpless that night.”
On August 1, 2011, during the NBA lockout, Durant electrified a very intimate crowd at 155th St. and Frederick Douglass Blvd. in Harlem by going 9 of 11 from 3-point range. He scored 28 points in the fourth quarter and capped an all-age performance by hitting four consecutive 3-pointers, all from well beyond the arc.
After his latest triple, the future Hall of Famer was harassed by fans of all ages. KD’s fourth-quarter scoring barrage at Rucker Park has been viewed nearly eight million times on YouTube.
“Big, small, tall, short, double teams, triple teams, it didn’t matter who they put in, he was coming in,” Naclerio said. “And he put his buckets into the flow of the game. It wasn’t like he was taking 1,000 shots. He was very efficient.”
With Kyrie Irving (ankle) and James Harden (hamstring) both out for Game 5 on Tuesday, the Brooklyn Nets will need another superhuman performance from No. 7 at the Barclays Center. Durant’s personal record for points scored in an NBA game is 54, set on January 17, 2014. During the playoffs, he averages 30.3 points.
“I have to be prepared to do whatever is out there like any night,” Durant told reporters.
But going back to 2011. Naclerio had gotten to know Durant through his former player at Cardozo – and his Texas Longhorn partner – Royal Ivey. Durant and Ivey are extremely close. In fact, Durant is the godfather of Ivey’s daughter. And Durant recently advocated for Ivey, an assistant in Brooklyn under Steve Nash, to get the head coach job in Texas.
Naclerio had received word from the founder of the Rucker Park Entertainer Basketball Classic, Greg Marius, the day before that Durant might be showing up. But it always felt more like a rumor until the coach saw the 7-foot star walking down FDB onto the court on August 1, 2011, alone. No entourage. Unknowingly, Durant also arrived two hours early. There was another game beforehand, so he would have to wait.
As the story goes, KD was hungry, so someone got him a pre-game meal of fried chicken, chard, and mac and cheese at a local soul food joint. Before his DC Power team’s 8pm tip against the Sean Bell All-Stars, which featured former Seton Hall standout Jeremy Hazell, Naclerio gave Durant some advice.
“’Listen, this is not a walk in the park, around 50 years and over in the league where you can just follow the moves and relax. They’ll attack you, ‘”Naclerio said. “He looked at me like I was crazy.”
“‘I came to play,'” Durant told the coach.
KD, who is now 32 but then 22, gave everyone in attendance a performance they will never forget. He scored 23 points in the first half and 43 more in the second. For context: New York streetball legend Joe “The Destroyer” Hammond holds the Rucker Park record with 74 points.
“Sometimes I just kept it inside. Other times, I would overturn it or reverse it, ”Naclerio said. “And then he started pulling up at JFK airport and got in. And then he did it over and over and over again. And then he would go to the other end of the floor as if nothing had happened, as if it was nothing special. ”
Yet even 10 years later, Naclerio remembers it like it was yesterday.
“Kevin is a basketball addict. He knew about everything that went on in high school, college, the pros, streetball. Learn about the history of Rucker Park. And what he did put him in the park’s history, ”Naclerio said.