Legendary Canadian Streetball Collective, The Notic, Reunites

The world premiere of “Handle With Care: The Legend of The Notic Streetball Crew” is Friday, Oct. 8 at VIFF.  

The court docket beneath the Cambie Road Bridge was most likely the final place you’d count on to catch a glimpse of streetball royalty on this scorching July day in Vancouver, Canada. Luxurious glass highrise condos encircled the court docket. Cyclists and middle-aged girls with toy poodles handed forwards and backwards alongside the adjoining promenade. On one hoop, a weekend warrior with a knee brace and AirPods performs solo, throwing up bricks.

However simply off to the facet, the band was getting again collectively. One after the other, members of The Notic—the legendary Canadian streetball crew that dropped each defenders and jaws throughout Van Metropolis—began to trickle in. First it was Catastrophe; then got here David Dazzle; then Johnny Blaze; then Delight, WhereYouAt and the remainder of the crew. The daps, the jokes, the love have been all captured by Kirk Thomas and Jeremy Schaulin-Rioux, the exact same two-man movie crew that had documented them almost twenty years earlier.

Final to reach on the scene was and is the mightiest baller of all of them: King Handles. Sure, the King Handles.

“Oh, have a look at this man!” hollers Johnny Blaze, aka Jonathan Mubanda, as King Handles was noticed on the horizon.

Strolling up with swagger, dripped out in his personal KH clothes line, King Handles flashed his Magic Johnson-watt smile because the crew embraced him like they have been at their 20-year highschool reunion. Mid-handshake, King Handles, aka Joey Haywood, rapidly sized up a now grown Catastrophe, aka Rory Grace (the youngest of the crew and the only white participant), and let nostalgia get the very best of him.

“Hey, we gonna play one-on-one or what?” 

“Positive man, let’s go!”

Sixteen years in the past, this exact same playground served because the backdrop to one in all The Notic’s defining moments. After two profitable mixtapes—The Notic  and The Notic 2—confirmed them doing shit even the AND1 cats weren’t doing, the world began to take discover. 

In 2005, SLAM ventured up North to profile The Notic in SLAM presents Streetball, Vol. 3. The story included an iconic pictorial beneath the Cambie Road Bridge with Vancouver’s signature gray skies. The shot now seems like a time capsule, as half a dozen members have been draped in saggy matches, rocking 2000s period manufacturers like Sean John and Enyce.    

Despite the fact that they wore scowls within the picture, The Notic proudly basked of their newfound fame. They cleared each difficulty from 7-11 cabinets. They signed a couple of autographs and stunted round city. They reveled within the thought that individuals in New York, Tokyo and Paris examine them and knew their names.

“When you ain’t by no means been in SLAM, you by no means made it,” declares Johnny Blaze matter-of-factly, because the impromptu one-on-one recreation between King Handles and Catastrophe performed out within the background. 

“To get validation from SLAM? That doesn’t occur out right here,” provides Blaze’s brother David Mubanda, aka David Dazzle.

The reunion was being filmed for an upcoming documentary about The Notic that’s slated to premiere on the Vancouver Worldwide Movie Competition in October. Because the crew posed to recreate that iconic SLAM image, their garments have been extra fitted and the boys have been now males. Most of their basketball careers have been lengthy within the rearview, however they got here collectively a last time to finish their mixtape trilogy and inform the world their story, about how a gaggle of misfits created a mode of basketball that was unseen on the time in Canada and past. And has not been seen since.

It began at Hoop It Up.

The yr was 2001, and the famed three-on-three international match was being hosted at Vancouver’s Science World. With cameras in tow, two associates and newbie filmmakers, Thomas and Schaulin-Rioux, have been filming a random recreation for enjoyable once they seen a rowdy crowd forming round a neighboring court docket.

“After which we went over and noticed Joey’s recreation,” says Thomas. “It was nothing like we had ever seen earlier than in Vancouver and instantly knew that we stumbled upon one thing particular.”

There they have been, a gaggle of youngsters with aptitude, placing on an exhibition with ridiculous handles and dimes. There was Goosebumps, drawing oohs with an ingenious backhanded dribble; King Handles hitting helpless defenders with lightning fast, five-dribble combos as if he have been a golden gloves boxer; Dazzle mesmerizing the group along with his drunken grasp type of dribbling. The Notic would get the Rucker Park therapy, with followers speeding the court docket each time they went SportsCenter on their opponents.  

“We simply had this synergy each time we performed collectively,” says Mohammed Wenn, aka Goosebumps. “We favored to play to the group, as a result of we by no means actually bought that spotlight taking part in in our highschool video games.”

“It was simply the enjoyable of taking part in with your folks as a result of all of us went to completely different excessive faculties round Vancouver,” provides Jermaine “J-Contemporary” Foster, who had handles and will often put you on a poster. “Actually, we felt like little rock stars.”

Even with publicity to the NBA in Van Metropolis (the Grizzlies have been nonetheless on the town), the type of basketball in native highschool and school gyms was conservative. Coaches needed fundamentals over flash. Members of The Notic, who have been principally first-generation Canadians and immigrants, emulated the Shammgods, the Iversons and the Skips. They have been outcasts in conventional, let’s name it what it’s, “white” basketball circles. The notion of them and their type had racial undertones. One youth coach advised King Handles to drop the “jungle ball.”  

However collectively, they discovered acceptance and brotherhood. “Once we bought collectively, we had no coaches, no person telling us what to do,” says King Handles. “We could possibly be who we have been.”

“We felt basketball coaches rejected us, so we type of mentioned, To hell with that, and did our personal factor,” Goosebumps provides. 

Weeks after Hoop It Up, Schaulin-Rioux and Thomas launched themselves to the crew on the Whalley Rec Centre. The Notic, who essentially have been a lot bigger than the Hoop It Up squad, agreed to be documented. Influenced by ’90s underground skateboarding movies, the filmmakers had every baller conduct a solo spot.

“They every took a flip freestyling, nearly like a DJ battle,” says Schaulin-Rioux. “After which, rapidly, we’re seeing these guys do [moves] with these handles that we’d by no means seen anybody do, not even the AND1 guys.”

Mixing the freestyle shoots with  compiled grainy open run footage, the producers embellished the mixtape with underground hip-hop tracks from artists like Jurassic 5, graffiti textual content overlays and intelligent graphics, packaged into previous Blockbuster Video instances. The Notic was created in 2001. The uber-popular sequel, The Notic 2, was launched a couple of years later with tougher music and extra subtle strikes. Because it was the early 2000s, Thomas and Schaulin-Rioux marketed the trailer on streetball message boards on-line. It wasn’t lengthy till they have been receiving cash orders for the VHS mixtape from Poland to Japan and everywhere in the world.

“Social media didn’t even exist again then. It’s loopy to suppose what might have been if there was that avenue to get it on the market,” says Catastrophe.

Their legend solely grew when the mainstream bought phrase. When the AND1 Mixtape Tour made a cease in close by Seattle in ’02, The Notic didn’t waste the chance. Catastrophe, who was 15 on the time, seemed like a cross between Jason “White Chocolate” Williams and Lil Bow Wow as he danced with the rock, nutmegging defenders repeatedly whereas ESPN cameras rolled. Clips of King Handles crossing up Headache immediately elevated The Notic’s credibility. 

“I knew from that time we might take our expertise around the globe and maintain our personal towards anybody,” King Handles says.

However simply because they might cling with the AND1 guys didn’t imply they have been getting paid like them. In that period, Canadians have been nonetheless missed and largely saved up North. Even across the time of the SLAM characteristic, the members have been beginning to transfer on from streetball. They have been getting older, payments needed to be paid, and shortly they’d be beginning households and actual 9-5 careers.

“It was all a dream!” Dazzle says in his greatest Biggie voice, reminiscing about The Notic’s peak. 

After which, it simply pale away.

After all of the notoriety King Handles gained from streetball fizzled, he shelved his playground persona and transitioned to organized hoops. He balled out at Saint Mary’s College in Halifax, Nova Scotia, main the nation in scoring in 2011 earlier than embarking on a decade-long basketball odyssey, bouncing round second tier professional leagues in Canada, Denmark and Iceland. By way of an opportunity invite to a three-on-three match in Japan in 2016, the place The Notic legacy is robust, his hearth for streetball was reignited. Shortly after, his Instagram blew up and King Handles was capable of acquire a cult following half a world away in Asia. 

A lot of King Handles’ second act was captured by his childhood pal and filmmaker, Ryan Sidhoo, who has made a pair of brief documentaries concerning the playground legend.

When Sidhoo was creating these docs, he had gone to Schaulin-Rioux and Thomas for archival footage. When the trio lastly met in particular person at a three-on-three match in Toronto in 2019, the thought of collaborating on a revival undertaking on The Notic gained momentum.

“The Notic actually modified my life, and I’m so happy with these tapes and that crew, however I at all times look again with remorse that it died out unfinished,” says Schaulin-Rioux. “For Kirk and I, ending this story seems like a weight lifting off these reminiscences, and what’s left is simply the strikes, the tapes and particularly the brotherhood.”

The movie may also deal with the long-awaited completion of The Notic 3, the ultimate installment within the trilogy. Schaulin-Rioux has hours of unreleased footage—each from the early days and an unreleased documentary he shot of King Handles in ’07, when Haywood first launched into his professional basketball profession.

“When you take basketball out of it, you’ve gotten a gaggle of outcasts and misfits who went on to depart their mark and legacy, not solely on their sport, but in addition the tradition of a metropolis,” says Sidhoo, the producer of the upcoming documentary. “It’s lovely that they’re nonetheless being celebrated years later.”

Reuniting The Notic was not precisely as sophisticated because the Contemporary Prince reunion particular. There isn’t a dangerous blood, and a lot of the members are nonetheless related. Many have households and flourishing second careers now. Andrew “6Fingaz” Liew, who had Stephen Curry-type vary (and sure, six fingers on his left taking pictures hand) owns a profitable development and design firm. J-Contemporary is a well-liked, native hip-hop DJ who has spun in main golf equipment in Brazil and L.A. The brothers, Dazzle and Blaze, are renaissance males dabbling in actual property and group work.   

And naturally, there’s King Handles, who has managed to remain related within the streetball world and works as a basketball coach. However as an alternative of hate or jealousy from his crew, there may be nothing however love and appreciation. Once more, that is household.

“The factor about King is he saved us alive, saved reppin’ us in no matter he did,” says Blaze. “He doesn’t need to do it, however that’s who he’s. However that’s all of us although. We symbolize one another all over the place we go and we assist one another even to today.”

For as beloved as King Handles is in the present day and the way a lot The Notic’s title nonetheless rings bells round Vancouver, they have been most likely forward of their time. Possibly if Instagram and YouTube have been round again then, or Canadian basketball gamers have been as revered as they’re now, there may need been extra school scholarships, sponsorship alternatives and even the NBA in King Handles’ case.  

However the movie chooses to deal with the what was versus the what ifs. At its core, this can be a human story that provides flowers to the underdogs.

“We have been younger legends,” concludes Goosebumps. “We have been so uncooked and spontaneous and once we got here collectively, we have been this unstoppable drive.”

Portraits Patrick Giang/Victory Inventive Group.

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