In the yard of Alcatraz, history repeated itself on Saturday night as Hugh 'Baby Shaq' Jones, an athletic 6-foot-3 streetball legend from Washington, D.C., once again took the crown at the Red Bull King of the Rock Finals.
"This year's Red Bull King of the Rock was the best one so far," said NBA star Rajon Rondo, who has hosted the one-on-one tournament since its inception in 2010. "The competition gets better every year. Congratulations to two-time champion Baby Shaq."
This year, Red Bull King of the Rock brought 64 one-on-one specialists from 23 countries to face off in bone-chilling conditions amidst the crumbling walls of Alcatraz in San Francisco -- once the country's most notorious prison.
Unlike in last year's event, where most of the international players were eliminated in the first round, this year's expanded crop showed a greater skill set and will. Nine international players made it out of the first round, and three players advanced to the round of 16.
The talk of the competition proved to be Lukas Kraus from the Czech Republic. A dark horse from the start, Kraus wasn't on anyone's radar, but he should have been. Showcasing a power inside game and a feathery outside touch, Kraus advanced through the rounds with stunning shot-making skills. As he moved from game to game, people began to take notice, and resounding applause began to fill the yard for the Czech player.
The crowd's enthusiasm carried him all the way to the finals, but it was there that he ran into the defending champion. Nicknamed 'Baby Shaq' for dominating in the paint, Jones is a streetball legend and a former member of the AND1 Mixtape Tour. His prowess on the court made him the odds-on favorite to win and reclaim his crown.
Before the final game began, Kraus called out, “Where is Baby Shaq? Let's play now!” Jones proved to be up to the challenge. The crowd was on its feet in a nail-biter where the two traded the lead multiple times, right up to the last second. Down by one point, Kraus attempted a last second outside jumper for the win, but came up short, sealing Jones's 13-12 victory.
In 2010, Red Bull King of the Rock became the first official sporting event ever to be held on Alcatraz. It marked the first time basketball had been played on The Rock since the inmates left the island over 50 years ago. Now in its third year, the tournament expanded to qualifiers in 25 countries, including 31 in the United States.
The competition once again began with an inspiring spoken-word performance by Tony Award-winning poet, artist and actor Lemon Andersen. He set the emotional tone for the night with an original verse about the personal stories of the players and the passion they bring to the yard. Following his performance, Jordis Unga, a former contestant on "The Voice," delivered a heartfelt rendition of the National Anthem.
The night included a dunk competition hosted by celebrated dunk artist Kenny “The Innovator” Dobbs.
Guests left the concrete bleachers and crowded the court to witness a handful of players taking turns in delighting the crowd and impressing the judges.
In the end, it was Orange County, California, wildcard Giyoh Shey who won the contest with a jaw-dropping windmill dunk.
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