By Adry Torres, ,
Published January 04, 2017
As the National Basketball Association drags into its second month, the league's stars have occasionally passed the time by showcasing their skills on the playgrounds of New York City and other cities across the nation.
There was, of course, the 66 points that Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant dropped at Rucker Park in Harlem, not to mention awe-inspiring performances at Pro City and Dyckman Park.
Then there are non-pros, city streetball legends who at times have gotten the best of their professional counterparts – like one playground great who outplayed Milwaukee Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings twice over the last year.
Adris Deleón may not play for the NBA, but amazing things still happen when he's on the court. Over the last six years, the street standout has shined in the local summer hoops scene, but getting that cult fame hasn't come easy.
His journey, like many families that have emigrated from the Dominican Republic to New York, began in Manhattan's Washington Heights. His father left the Caribbean nation to find work and eventually bring Adris, the boy's mother, and his siblings with him.
Adris DeLeón attended Louis D. Brandeis on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, but rarely attended class. He didn't play basketball seriously until the summer for his senior year, when he played on the AAU team and traveled the country. He competed against top talent, guys like LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith.
Holding his own against some of the top prep players lit a fire under DeLeón to perform better in school. But with his about to play in a playoff game – against Sebastian Telfair and national powerhouse Lincoln High School from Brooklyn, no less – Deleón found out he had failed a class and couldn't play.
Undeterred, DeLeón later attended the College of the Siskiyous in California and the College of Southern Idaho before eventually graduating from the Eastern Washington University. From there, the 5-foot-11-inch guard carved out his niche at the Dyckman Park, West 4th, Rucker Park, Pro City and Hoops in the Sun summer leagues.
His played earned him the nickname, “2 Hard 2 Guard.” He has backed up the moniker, excelling against guys like Kareem Reid, Speedy Claxton, Mike James and Telfair on those hot summer days and nights.
After years of starring at the Dyckman Park summer tourneys with Da Young Ones, the team with which he earned his hoops alter-ego, he joined Team Nike, a collection of some of the best players to have played in the streetball scene lately. Joining Team Nike, with which he inked a contract, allowed DeLeón a platform to further showcase his skills.
DeLeón recounted one match-up against Minnesota's Telfair last summer. The Brooklyn native and cousin of former NBA star Stephon Marbury had shown up at Dyckman Park, calling his counterpart playmaker out.
“He told me, 'Where is '2 Hard 2 Guard?' We faced each other. I showed up at halftime because I had another game and finished up 25 points in one half,” DeLeón proudly told Fox News Latino over his favorite dish, La Bandera Dominicana.
The name become the source of controversy again, when Jennings, the Bucks' guard, wanted to take the name that DeLeón believed he earned at Dyckman Park years before their first meeting last summer at Rucker Park.
“He came to the park and said, 'I want the name “2 Hard 2 Guard.” That's my name',” Deleón said of Jennings. “We had an argument. I finished with like 34 points. He finished with 14. He got there late.”
Yet DeLeón knew there was unfinished business. Those who were lucky enough to witness the showdown claimed Jennings outplayed him one-on-one because his team had earned the win.
“He sounded off on Twitter. He just talked a lot. He said, 'Oh, “2 Hard 2 Guard”' is not that hard to guard," DeLeón said, referring to Jennings' post. "He is the easiest to guard.'”
DeLeón said he was bothered but decided to let it slide because Jennings was in the NBA. But entourages didn't let it go, even telling Jennings that he should go to DeLeón's park and take the name away.
So the “2 Hard 2 Guard” rematch was set once Jennings revealed on a video post that he wanted to face him again in his backyard next to the housing projects.
Earlier this month the two finally met on the court, and DeLeón led his his East squad to a 78-55 win over Jennings and his West team, which included Toronto Raptors guard Demar DeRozan and two former McDonald's All Americans. Both players went at each other throughout the night but in the end, DeLeón outplayed and outscored Jennings, who relented and gave “2 Hard 2 Guard” his due props.
“He said that I clearly won the battle against him in the park. He gave me his respect. I took that very seriously because I feel proud when guys from the NBA want to come down from up there to play against me," DeLeón said. "To me, I'm just like any regular person. They want to beat me. … When they see the truth, they get surprised.”
Dyckman Park tourney emcee Joe Po, who has given out hundreds of nicknames over the years to countless players that have stepped on the court, has seen DeLeón’s game progress over the years.
“That’s his name. Brandon Jennings couldn’t take his name away,” said Joe Po, who back in his days balled at Rucker Park.
While the local player clearly had the upper hand over the NBA star before a standing room only crowd, a video clip of Jennings bouncing a ball off of DeLeón's head went viral and made the rounds of nightly sports casts and web sites that follow the game.
DeLeón, meanwhile, would like the truth to come out of that encounter. That clip, he says, is a mere glimpse of what really went down and does not portray what really happened on the court.
“The matchup was good and it was excitement for the crowd and people that (have) been waiting for a whole year for this to happen. And he said it that he wanted to come to Dyckman and take my name. So when the day came, I think I did my job. I got the best out of him that night,” DeLeón said.
“You know, he said it after he had gone on Twitter, 'Ok, “2 Hard 2 Guard” got me this time.' But when I got up the next day, I just checked ESPN, top plays, Yahoo. I seen that they tried to put me on blast. That Brandon Jennings killed me. … When he hit the ball on my head, I got kind of upset and I was about to react. … If you see the real, real film, I really embarrassed him," he added.
"Even his guys, like people on his team gave me props (for) the way I came at him. At the end of the day he finished with like 14 points. I had like 31, 32 points and we won the game by 20."
A video recently surfaced in which DeLeón called out Jennings for another meeting but was quickly removed.
If the lockout is still unresolved in the next month or so, perhaps a DeLeón-Jennings trilogy would solve this friendly-feud.
Adry Torres, who has covered MLB, NFL, NBA and NCAA basketball games and related events, is a regular contributor to Fox News Latino. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter: @adrytorresnyc.