Adam "MCA" Yauch and the Beastie Boys have always been hoop fans, with lyrical references to ballplayers from Latrell Sprewell to streetball legend Hawthorne Wingo. Now Yauch is bringing that love to the big screen with the documentary "Gunnin' for that #1 Spot."
Yauch is director and producer of the film chronicling an elite high school contest played at Harlem's famed Rucker Park in September 2006. The documentary centers on eight of the best young players in the country, soon-to-be household names like Michael Beasley and Kevin Love. It's fittingly being released on Friday, the day after the NBA draft.
Yauch once rapped, "would someone on the Knicks please drive the lane." After stopping by for a friendly game of one-on-one atop The Associated Press' rooftop court, it was easy to see Yauch's game was defined by his ability to get to the rim. Afterwards, he discussed the movie and his basketball history.
AP: I remember reading about the Beasties always playing ball on tour.
Yauch: Yeah, a lot of times we would bring a portable backboard and play in the parking lots.
AP: Who is the best out of you three?
Yauch: I don't know. Pretty close between me and Adam. Mike doesn't play anymore. I think both of us are probably better at bringing the ball to the basket than shooting from the outside. I don't think either of us are getting ready to make ourselves available for the draft.
AP: How did you get involved with making "Gunnin' For That #1 Spot"?
Yauch: This friend of mine was putting together this all-star game up at the Rucker and he was looking for advice on how to document it. I started coming up with ideas and the more I was coming up with ideas, like profiling the players and the world of elite high school basketball, it just seemed like it would make a really cool documentary.
AP: Did you play ball when you were young or in high school?
Yauch: As a kid I didn't play basketball much at all. I really started playing when we were working on the "Paul's Boutique" record. Then we built our own studio in 1990 and we put up a backboard and hoop in there and we would just come in every day and play 2-on-2. Sometimes we would play all night. That's the reason that record took three years, because we would just go in there and play basketball all night. (Laughs.)
AP: Not surprisingly the documentary is also infused with hip-hop. It's named after a Ludacris song, right?
Yauch: Sort of. It's not exactly the name of the Ludacris song but it's similar to that song. The hip-hop seemed to really make sense. There's some real similarity between where hip-hop is now and where basketball is now. Some commonality that just made sense when I was picking tracks to put in the movie. That stuff felt right.
AP: How did you come with the theme of the movie?
Yauch: I thought that would be a more interesting way to watch the game if you felt like you knew some of the players and had a vested interest in watching it.
AP: It's pretty amazing how many of the players profiled have gone on to be so famous. A number of them could go high in the draft.
Yauch: I was hoping for that. That's one of the reasons I thought it was interesting, that they might do well in the NBA.
AP: Anything else you want to say about the film?
Yauch: In many ways it's like a New York film. I feel like New York is one of the main characters in the film. I like the idea that these guys are coming from all over the country and coming together and especially that some of them have never been to New York or never been to a big city before. I feel like one aspect of the film is seeing the city through their eyes. Which I think is cool.
Yauch: No, thank you. I wish we got to play some more.
AP: Yeah, except on the video they are just going to show you taking me.