You’ve probably never heard of Jack Ryan, but Scott Ferrall wants to change that. Ryan, according to Ferrall, is “the greatest New York City street ball legend ever.”
What makes Ryan unique, you ask? He’s 57, barely 6-feet tall, and white. He also plays basketball with Ferrall, which Ryan loves.
“I’m tired of playing against the same guys that know all my little trick moves,” Ryan said on Ferrall on the Bench. “I like going in there. (People say), ‘There’s the old white guy.’ They put the worst guy on me, (and then later in the game, it’s), ‘Put your hand up. Guard the dude. He can shoot. All right, let me get him.’ Then that guy guards me and before you know it, the best guy is guarding me and they’re all yelling at him, ‘Yo, put your hands up!’”
Ryan, who grew up in Brooklyn, learned the game at a young age. He would school his older brother – and his older brother’s friends – and was dunking by 14, even though he was 5-10, tops.
“That was something I always wanted to do,” Ryan said. “Me and my friends, at the time, we had dunking contests. But it all started with touching the backboard. Then trying to touch the rim. Then crumbling up pieces of little paper and dunking the paper. Then it was grabbing a baseball. Then it was grabbing a softball. Then it was taking some air out of the basketball so we could palm it and dunk it. It’s something I always wanted to do.”
Eventually, Ryan made his way to the legendary courts on West 4th street. He was underestimated, of course, but he was often the best player on the court. In fact, he developed a following – and not just a following of white people, either.
“Growing up, I always had to make it a show,” Ryan said. “I always wanted to beat you, I wanted to win, but I wanted to make you look bad, and I wanted to be flashy – I wanted to make it a show. So growing up, all the white guys that I played with, they didn’t really like playing with me so much. They played Princeton basketball: not flashy and the backdoor (cuts) and just basic basketball the way it was first taught and all that.”
That wasn’t Ryan’s style.
“When I got a basketball in my hand, it’s like a yoyo and I’m playing like one of the brothers,” Ryan said. “Like I said, the white guys didn’t like playing with me, but the black guys loved me. I was playing like they were.”