On Thursday, the death of New York City basketball streetball legend John "Franchise" Strickland (1972-2010) rang throughout the Mecca.
From the playgrounds in Harlem to across the water, a heavy sadness fell upon many who were friends, student athletes and family members of Strickland. According to reports from friends and family members, Strickland passed away peacefully in his sleep on Thursday morning, he was 38 years old.
Strickland is and will always be one of the most beloved streetball legends to hit the NYC asphalt. In a video a few years prior to his passing, Strickland spoke about what it meant to him to be a street ball legend. "I am a streetball legend. Why? Nowadays guys are being giving these titles after one or two moves. I have been doing this for fifteen-seventeen years. You know, when you go against a legend you get at him. When you go against a legend and you get at him that's how you become one. Streetball means life to me, it's breathe to me playing ball. I just love this game."
As a young man, Strickland attended Park West High School on 50th street in NYC. After HS, he attended Jacksonville Junior College in Texas. Strickland then transferred to the University of Hawaii. Strickland would tryout for the New York Knicks and actually made camp, however, he would be cut late.
Strickland's professional career included playing for D-League, ABA and professionally in Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Korea, Argentina, France., Italy, Portugal, and Serbia where he became known as "The Minor League Killer". Strickland also was a popular player when he played with Halifax Rainmen as a forward.
EBC Rucker Park announcer, Thomas "Duke" Mills, recalls how John Strickland nickname came about. "I remember he was a real young kid that came to the Rucker, but he was thick not fat. Al "Cash" Avant (EBC Announcer) said, 'look at this boy here.' At the time Strickland had baby fat. The first tournament 'Franchise' played in was on 155th he played for Team One Stop named after a grocery store near the Rucker. As the years went by he lost weight, we first called him "Panda". He got real good as the years past. I told Al Cash he needs to change the name. Cash said go ahead Duke give him his nickname. No more Panda now you're the "Franchise". Because that's what he was going to be to everybody, they were going to build around him. He was a great, great ball player. Amateurs and pros loved him. He had a great head on his shoulders."
Strickland gain even more attention according to Duke while playing with "The Flavor Unit" and with the "Terror Squad".
The day former president Bill Clinton and NBA commissioner David Stern came to Rucker Park the "Franchise" a true showman did not disappoint. As Shaquille O'Neil sat on the sidelines, Strickland in his playful way said to Shaq, "Come on big fellow put your sneakers on." Strickland then turned to the crowd and asked, "anybody got shoes his size?"
Strickland always kept everyone laughing on and off the basketball court. The man known as the "Franchise" had an amazing spirit and love for the game and will never be forgotten. John Strickland leaves behind a six-year old son, Brick Cornell.
"My Homie Strict told me, "Dude Finish Yo Breakfast" (Jay-Z)