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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

3,500 Streetball Players Gun for Glory at MGU

For MTFinals action during Sunday's street basketball.
Streetball players, breakdancers, graffiti artists and an ex-Spice Girl all took advantage of the beautiful weather this weekend at the Ninth Annual Streetball Challenge held in front of Moscow State University. By the time Geri Halliwell took the stage at 6 p.m. Sunday, the winners had been declared and the prize sneakers awarded.

Streetball is a low-scale, freewheeling version of basketball, perhaps made most famous at Manhattan's West 4th Street courts and in the Ron Shelton film "White Men Can't Jump." The rules vary from venue to venue, but at this tournament teams fielded three players each for 15-minute half-court games in which baskets counted for one point each and fouls, on the rare occasion that they were called, resulted in possession being awarded to the victim rather than free throws.

More than 3,500 participants (divided into roughly 800 teams) from the Moscow area participated this year, playing Saturday and Sunday on makeshift courts in the university's parking lot. The non-sponsored teams were divided by gender, and then within gender by age.

Though the tournament's chief referee, Vladimir Khlopikov, said "the quality of players last year was higher," he nonetheless spotted a few potential professionals among the streetballers, and the quality of play was indeed high all around.

Slam 555, which won the men's 20-and-older title, played old-school, New York Knicks-style basketball, taking full advantage of the casual refereeing to bump their opponents freely all over the court and manhandle them under the basket: This was full-contact basketball.

The team was led by a wiry Dirk Nowitzki look-alike named Vladimir, who also won the slam dunk contest with a one-handed, 360-degree, tomahawk-style dunk that brought to mind the Atlanta Hawks' Dominique Wilkins in vintage mid-'80s form.

Basketball sneakers were presented to players on the winning teams from every division, and to the winner of the slam dunk contest. Vladimir, who wears a size-15 shoe, went home two pairs the richer.