However one chooses to identify it, New York holds a promise and invitation to prosper in one of the world's great melting pots.
Basketball opportunity walks hand in hand with the city's reputation for heady aspirations and cruel lack of compassion. Within the past several months, in fact, one of New York's most heralded hoops prospects of the past 15 years, Lenny Cooke, was profiled in a Showtime documentary as a tale of woe and warning.
Cooke was a contemporary of LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and others who built a reputation on a par with those celebrated peers. But he never made it, the temptations attached to basketball in the city devouring his future before he ever launched from the ground.
And still, New York boasts some of the most illustrious success stories in hoops history. Michael Jordan was born in Brooklyn, and while he doesn't identify as a native son his first bit of tongue-wagging took place in NYC.
Long-time New York hoopniks, including respected colleague Tom Konchalski, argue stridently about the best players in the city's history. Most consider Lew Alcindor No. 1, which makes sense given that he's also arguably the best center in basketball history.
Connie Hawkins is another legendary New Yorker who solidified that legend in the ABA and NBA. Bob Cousy, Lenny Wilkens, Chris Mullin, Tiny Archibald, Billy Cunningham, Kenny Anderson and, more recently, Stephon Marbury belong on the list as well.
And that's the group who made it in organized ball. More than any other city, New York celebrates its streetball heroes on a par with its most accomplished professionals. Rucker Park is synonymous with freestyle hoops, and Earl "The Goat" Manigault, Pee Wee Kirkland and Rafer Alston are just a few whose place among the greats was cemented in the concrete jungle.
So that's the old guys. What about the new guys?
Truthfully, New York hasn't pushed through as much superstar talent recently as it has in the past. Dealing with such tiny sample sizes, one would expect fluctuations, but not to such a glaring extent. This is, by far, America's most populous city — high expectations come standard.
Of course, it's not like the well has been entirely dry. Isaiah Whitehead leads the way with the Class of 2014 and will remain local for college — at Seton Hall — next season. Not only is Whitehead a top 15 player nationally, he competes with the brash and flash everyone expects from a New York guard.
But Whitehead alone can't be expected to carry the torch. Thankfully, there's emerging young star Andre Drummond — who prepped in Connecticut but grew up in Mount Vernon — now making very quick and promising strides at the pro level. And to be sure, the cycle inevitably will bring New York back to its historic prominence.