On Saturday afternoon at Grayhawk Park in Scottsdale, Arizona hopefuls took to the courts to battle it out in the Red Bull King of the Rock Phoenix qualifier.
Red Bull King of the Rock is a six qualifier one-on-one basketball tournament that will culminate with a showdown in The Yard of Alcatraz, hosted by basketball superstar Rajon Rondo. The top eight players at the Phoenix event each earned a spot as one of the 64 finalists and a chance to be crowned King of the Rock on September 18.
It was just after a half hour into registration when the 64th player signed up to compete in what was the most diverse Red Bull King of the Rock qualifier to date. Players of all shapes, sizes, and skill levels showed up to try for one of the eight coveted spots that would give them access to The Rock.. After a few hours of nail-biting games combined with “skunked” games (where one player won by a landslide), the final game saw Gary Smith and Michael Purdie - step brothers - go head-to-head. This was not the first qualifier that saw a pair of brothers advance to the finals, as the Gaillard brothers both moved on from the Los Angeles qualifier. With a noticeably similar playing style, demeanor and even appearance, the two brothers both proved to be quite the even matchup on the court. But in the end it was Smith, the 22 year-old older brother who bested his sibling to take first place. The 6’6” Smith, who is training for the NBA Developmental League, said that Red Bull King of the Rock will benefit his training because “playing against good raw talent is always helpful.” In regards to the finals on Alcatraz he noted, that “it’ll be a great experience” and that it’s “different to go on there a positive note” in comparison to the jailbirds that last played in The Yard.
- Gary Smith (Phoenix)
- Michael Purdie (Phoenix)
- Adam Cook (Tempe)
- Joseph George (Peoria)
- Damo’n Strong (Scottsdale)
- Leon Azuogu (Scottsdale)
- Dean Walker Jr. aka “DJ” (Phoneix)
- Mark Barksdale (Mesa)
The finals will be the first official sporting event ever held on Alcatraz, and the first time basketball has been played there since the inmates left the island over 50 years ago. Sixty-four contestants will emerge from the six qualifiers and make their way to Alcatraz for the final showdown on September 18. Those wanting to reach the hallowed grounds of Alcatraz must earn their spot through one of three remaining qualifier tournaments taking place in Seattle (August 7), San Francisco (August 28) and Oakland (September 11). Sixty-four finalists will emerge from these six qualifiers and meet at one of the world’s most iconic locations for the final battle. In the end, there can be only one King, so out of the 64 finalists, only one will be crowned “King of the Rock.”
Red Bull King of the Rock is open to all ages, amateur and pro alike. Registration will take place on-site for each of the six qualifiers and will take the form of a 64-person bracket competition. Only the first 64 players to register will be accepted into each qualifier, so early arrival is encouraged. Players interested in competing should visit www.redbullusa.com/kingoftherock for more information.