Although four years have passed since I last played in the Hoop-It-Up tournament, my experience there has scarred me forever--literally. That doesn't mean that the annual three-on-three street basketball tournament is dangerous, just that it's rougher than the typical driveway game. At the tournament in 1994, my two teammates and I were set to play our last game of the two-day competition against a team from a local home for troubled teens. They didn't look that tough, but their secret weapon was an unwavering desire to watch me bleed profusely. It took only about three minutes of play before they achieved their goal; after repeated shoves to the asphalt, a pretty healthy gash had been opened on my back. We eventually won, but we scored only one real basket. If we had not been allowed to call fouls and shoot free throws, the game might never have ended.
I hesitate to mention the fight that erupted, because most Hoop-It-Up games don't dissolve into violence. The games are played tough, but punches are rare. The tournament staff patrols each court vigilantly, looking for the slightest trouble. After I took a swing at an opposing player, 10 Hoop-It-Up employees surrounded our court, making sure the only thing our hands touched was the basketball. The tournament hasn't been in existence for 13 years for nothing.
Since 1986, the three-on-three tournament has been a Dallas institution, taking over the West End for two days every summer. For the last 10 years, the tournament has been held all over the world as well, making 44 stops in the United States alone. The Dallas event is still the biggest of them all, though, and this year Hoop-It-Up expects to attract more than 10,000 players and 100,000 spectators. The tournament features some of the finest street-basketball players in the area, battling it out in the Texas heat for a little bit of money and, more importantly, bragging rights for another year. Just remember, if you plan on playing, you shouldn't underestimate your opponents. I've got the scar to prove it.
The 13th annual Hoop-It-Up three-on-three street basketball tournament happens in the West End on June 20 and 21. The deadline to sign up to play has passed, but admission is free to spectators. Call (972) 392-5750 for more information.