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A Bronx tale
by Seth "Soul Man" Ferranti / August 9, 2004

Joe Black
Joe Black.

Soul Man is the world's leading prison basketball journalist. He also writes for Don Diva, Elemental, Vice and Slam.
If you want the 411 on convicts, street legends, prison gangs, the mafia and life in the belly of the beast, check out gorillaconvict.com/blog
Check out Soul Man's first book Prison Stories and watch out for Prison Basketball, out in March 2007.
You can e-mail him at info@gorillaconvict.com.

USP Atlanta, FCI Allenwood, FCI Otisville, FCI Fort Dix. Bronx legend Joe Black has showed out all over the Bureau of Prisons. Displaying mad game, bussin' ass and winning chips for over a decade.

"I played in every championship game at every prison I was in," Joe Black says.

That's 21 seasons, counting Winter and summer leagues. Out of 21 championships, Joe Black has won 12.

"I made every varsity team and never missed and All-Star game," he tells me. And he's played with the creme of the crop in the Bureau of Prisons leagues. The Abuser, Catch-me-if-you-can, The Machine, Joe Jesus, Jonesy, Darryl "Silk" Carpenter, Me Go, Anyhow, Troy Love, Boo Bear and Big LA. Like Joe Black says, "they're the true legends of this shit."

Joe Black's name has been ringing bells in the BOP from coast to coast. In FCI Otisville, he was dropping 68, 64, 58 and 52 all in the
same season. A scoring machine.

Joe tells me how his day "were consumed with basketball talk. Whether it was talking shit to the opposition or strategizing game plans. Basketball was my passion.

"I've been down for over 10 years now and the prison basketball
tournaments have played a major role in my being able to cope with my time."

With a release date in 2008, Joe Black has a little more time to do.

"I came into prison at the age of 24," he says. "In 1993, I blew trial and got sentenced to a 19-1/2 year prison-term for a crack conspiracy."

So Joe's misadventures in the game (of thuglife) have led to more adventures in the game (of basketball). But for real the kid was balling outside too.

"I'm not one of those cats that started playing ball in prison. I played this shit on the bricks," Joe says.

From the Bronx to UConn to Winston Salem State, Joe Black has balled with the best of them including NBA players Rod Strickland and Rodney Rogers.

"I can play the point or shooting guard," Joe says. "I have excellent court vision, decent handle, and I pass the ball really well. I also have the ability to score in bunches and from anywhere on the court."

Basically dude can do what he wants, but his ability to be a team leader is what really makes his game special. Joe Black is trying to win too.

"It's all about winning to me. Reccing, showing up your man, goin’ hard, if it all comes with a W, then that's what it is because at the end of the day the winner gets the props. I'm 5-foot-11 off the court, but once on the court I played like I was 6-foot-5. "

When we talk about prison ball, Joe offers up this: "The only slight difference between the world and prison tournaments are some of the players may be a little bit bigger and stronger in here. And they might play a little more physical but it all be within’ the game."

And Joe continues explaining how intense the battles can get: "There were joints in here where cats played like freedom was at stake."

That is how serious dudes get about their basketball in prison. They'll be ready to shank a ref who they think jacked rec or bust an opposing player in the head for a hard foul committed. This shit is real.

"Of course dudes get in their feelings and shit like that. Me, I don't worry about a cat getting in his feelings. In fact, that’s where I want him at. That way I know I'm bussin’ his ass."

I ask Joe what has stuck out in his mind in his penitentiary basketball career besides the championships, MVPs, scoring titles, Varsity team and All-Star game appearances. "One is when I first came in the system," he says. "I was in USP Atlanta and I banged it on this tall 6-foot-9 Nigerian cat."

He tells me about another time at FCI Otisville where he made a halfcourt, last-second shot that won the game for his team. "It was all net," he says. "The bleachers cleared and about twenty cats picked me up and literally carried me around the gym. Man that shit was bananas."

"Playing pro ball was never a dream of mine," Joe says when I ask him about the NBA. "It was just a game I was more than good at. I made some bad decisions as a kid and this is the result of one of them. But could I have played college or pro ball? Without a doubt. In my era, short guards were in."

Joe Black says his favorite player now is Kobe. "A Jordan clone," he says. "His game is wicked." Joe Black doesn't claim an NBA team but says, "I love basketball and love watching players that can play. Whether it’s Kobe, T-Mac, King James, Carmelo, a cat on the streets, a cat in jail or a cat on Mars, if dude can play I'm a fan."

Now as Joe prepares to finish up his bid he says, "I still play. Nowhere as frequently or as passionately as I once did. Basketball has really become a pass time for me."

And that is because Joe Black has moved on to bigger and better things.

"I'm on some laid-back shit now. Basketball was a big part of my life and bid, but now I can stand to miss watching or playing the game. I'm an author now, so writing has become a major part of not only my bid but my life as well."

Joe Black's first novel, Street Team, is out now. "It's one of the hottest street books out," he says. "And you can go to my web site at www.illstreetz.com and learn a whole lot about me and what I'm in to."

That’s the life of a prison basketball gangsta – Joe Black aka Air Black aka The Author. Joe recently signed to a major distributor and his second book is coming out soon. That just goes to show what drive and talent and passion can accomplish in the belly of the beast. By transforming his desire to be the best prison basketball player into the new forum of writing, Joe Black not only shows his versatility but also his desire to succeed in the real world, outside the fences, in a legitimate way. Although his life as a gangsta, convict and prison basketball legend is behind him, a bright future as a writer awaits as he pursues success in the book game just as thoroughly as he did in the drug game and in the world of prison basketball.

I want to end this with Joe Black's last words and shout outs.

"I wanna definitely big up all the ballers that I had the pleasure of playing with and against," he says. "There are too many to name but you all know who you are. And I also want to big up HoopsHype for giving the BOP ballers some light. I think it's a beautiful thing."

This writer would think it's beautiful too if you all out there in the real world checked out Joe Black's novels. Because for real, they're the hypest, realist, and grimiest shit to hit the street since Donald Goines.

Seth "Soul Man" Ferranti, federal prison number 18205-083, is housed at FCI Loretto. Previously he resided at FCI Fairton, FCI Fort Dix, FCI Beckley and FCI Manchester. He has been a regular contributor to HoopsHype.com since 2003

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