Ricardo Laing, a 25-year-old from White Plains, pleaded guilty in January to charges of first degree assault and second degree criminal possession of a weapon, both felonies, for shooting into a crowd after a basketball game at the world famous Rucker Park in July 2012 . This past week he was sentenced to 10 years in the senseless bullet barrage that turned a typical night under the 155th street Bridge into a chaotic, ghetto catastrophe.
The shooting broke out during an argument between fans of two teams competing in the annual Entertainment Basketball Classic. Five people were wounded. A 16-year-old boy and four men in their 20s were each struck once by bullets, police said. They were shot in the ankle, leg or arm, and rushed to local hospitals, where they were in stable condition.
NBA baller Nate Robinson was in attendance, but he was not injured.
"Harlem's Rucker Park is an iconic location for basketball fans worldwide," Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said in a statement "Unfortunately for the hundreds in attendance on July 25, 2012, Ricardo Laing brought a gun to the game and fired wildly into the crowd, injuring five bystanders who luckily did not lose their lives."
Rucker Park was called the P.S. 156 Playground when it opened in 1956. An influential teacher named Holcombe Rucker soon saw its community potential as a center place of Harlem culture and an attraction for basketball heads from around the world. It’s hosted a who’s who of basketball legends, NBA stars, drug-dealing bucket masters and revered ballers on the come-up. Rucker Park is an intense, street-heavy atmosphere cloaked in the safety and presence of celebrities, children and family.
When the "streets were the streets" and there was a code and a power structure that everyone in the hood respected, an incident such as this could never occur. Of all the places in Harlem, any idiot knows Rucker Park isn't about the gun play.
Hopefully that’s the last case of senseless violence at the hallowed grounds. "Da" Rucker has had an incomparable run, and its existence has shaped basketball culture in a myriad ways. The survival of the EBC tournament relies on Al Cash and the tournament directors providing a safe, family atmosphere. These cats might have to consider instituting an age limit for park entry after dark. If the famed playground is going to become a haven for disputes, disagreements with ref calls and gun battles, then we also may be seeing the last days of this iconic birthplace of high-profile street ball.