The Sean Bell All-Stars proved once again over the weekend why they are still considered the premier streetball team in the city — with help from a former Brooklyn Net.
Guard Tyshawn Taylor, who played for the Nets from 2012–14, scored 19 points and grabbed three rebounds to lead the Sean Bell All-Stars past R2K-OohWay in the 81–67 final of the New York Ball Up Million Dollar Challenge Championship on July 19 at John Jay College in Manhattan.
“These are my guys,” said Taylor, who played in Puerto Rico last season. “I appreciate these guys welcoming a Jersey kid. This means that when people hear New York City and that we won this tournament, they recognize that we are good and that New York still breeds good basketball players.”
The victory earns the team $50,000 and a chance to play for $500,000 later this month. This is the first year of the tournament in conjunction with Ball Up. The winners from New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Indianapolis, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., will square off beginning on July 30 to decide the national champions. Sean Bell left no doubt who the top team in the five borough is right now.
“We are the Kings of New York as you can see,” said forward Kavon Jones-Lytch. “We had an undefeated season and we proved that we are the best team in the city. I’m proud to be representing my city.”
The turning point of the game was at the start of the second half when Taylor crossed over R2K-OohWay’s veteran Antawn Dobie and made him fall to the ground. The crowd roared as Taylor scored, and it was evident that the athleticism of the Sean Bell All-Star’s was going to be a lot for R2K-OohWay to handle thanks to its most valuable player.
“It shows all the work I’ve put in,” Taylor said. “Anyone on this team could have gotten this. I’m just happy that I got this.”
R2K-OohWay would still find a way to scrap its way back into the game in the waning minutes of the second half. It trailed by as much as 16 in the second half, but at the 2:30 mark it pressed the Sean Bell All-Stars into making mistakes, which allowed R2K-OohWay to close the gap to 75–67 with less than a minute left.
To try and preserve the clock — and its shot at making it to the national-championship bracket — R2K-OohWay had to keep fouling and sending the Sean Bell All-Stars to the free throw line, and that’s where the game was finally put away.
“It’s big because at the end of it, we are the best team in the city,” said Sean Bell coach Rah Wiggins.
The victory had an extra emotional meaning for Wiggins, as he was a close friend of team namesake Sean Bell, who was shot and killed by police in 2006.
“Sean Bell was one of my childhood friends,” Wiggins said. “He was like a little brother to me, and I want to makes sure his name will live on forever in something positive.”
Wiggins’s team must now prepare to travel to Los Angeles to compete for the grand prize money — and bragging rights for themselves and New York City.
“New Yorkers always have a bull’s-eye on the back regardless of where they’re from,” Jones-Lytch said. “Whether you’re from the city, Long Island, or Buffalo, New Yorkers always have a bull’s-eye on their backs — and I walk around with that on my chest.”