NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Handball is a New York City institution. It’s recognized as one of the oldest sports in history and gave rise to every racquet sport currently played across the world.
As the handball capital of the world, the city holds the sport’s preeminent tournament.
In the streets of New York, you’ll find the sport ingrained in the local culture. Even better, all you’ll need is a two dollar ball and your hands.
Six-time king of the court John “Rookie” Wright says besides basketball, handball is the most played sport in the city.
“It’s easy to pick up,” he tells CBS2’s Steve Overmyer. “It’s a beautiful game.”
The rules are simple — don’t let the ball hit the ground twice.
“We’re out here on the concrete scraping our bodies. We’re risking our bodies putting it all into it,” number one ranked player Tim “Timbo” Gonzalez said.
There are more than 2,000 courts in New York, but the best players gravitate to the city championship known as “King of the Courts.”
“‘King of the Courts’ is probably the most important tournament,” Timbo said. “Everybody wants to make a name for themselves. It’s literally the hardest tournament to win.”
Timbo says he grew up with handball, sometimes playing 30 games a day. Now recognized as the best player in the world, he’s represented the United States in tournaments and makes a living playing on the Red Bull Slaps Tour as a professional handball player.
Still, his prized possession would be holding the title of the grassroots born “King of the Courts” tournament.
“I’m here to break records and I’m trying to ultimately have the most ‘King of the Courts’ ever,” he said.
The record of seven titles is currently held by Rookie, who’s considered the greatest handball player of all time. He won his first “King of the Courts” when he was 22.
After a decade-long hiatus, he said he came back to make a point. He was 43-years-old the last time he won.
“I don’t drink, I don’t smoke,” he said. “I just want everyone to experience the joy that I have. I want everyone to have fun.”
Rookie was part of the crowd filling in the margins of the court, watching Timbo make it all the way to the finals.
Most games are up to 21, but the championship game goes to 25. Amid a flurry of slams and lunges, the two finalists put on a show for the ages.
In the end, Timbo claimed his third crown, and continues to be a true ambassador for the sport.
“A lot of kids these days want to play video games and stay in all the time,” he said. “It’s a great activity to do with your family. Get out here and have fun and laugh at each other.”
Timbo’s share of the $10,000 prize money is secondary to the pride of once again declaring himself king of the courts.
You can catch Timbo in action on the professional handball circuit called the Wall Ball Championships, which will be in Orchard Beach on August 20th.
They’re hoping this form of handball, or wall ball, can soon become an Olympic sport.