by Seth "Soul Man" Ferranti / October 23, 2005
Born and bred in the murder capital of the world. Forged in the vicious hardcourt battles of the Terror Dome. I'm not talking about no jive newcomer to the system. I'm talking about a prison basketball legend. Straight out of the Chocolate City. Northeast DC. Meet Graham, a prison league superstar.
"My first bid was in 1990 for possession with the intent to distribute cocaine," says Anthony Allen Graham, a 37-year-old, who goes 6-foot-4, 200 lbs. "I ended up with a 5-15 year sentence. I was 22 then."
He started out at Lorton, one of the most notorious prisons on the East coast. He made his name there, b-ball wise, but his affair with the game started much earlier.
"My history began at Stuart Junior High. Before that I fell in love with my craft at the famous Sherwood playground in Washington DC," Graham says. "After Stuart, I was recruited by Coolidge High in Northwest to play for my favorite coach, Frank Williams. I played with Donald Hodge (Temple, Dallas Mavericks) and David Butler (UNLV) at Coolidge and we won the championship in 85-86."
Before falling to the lure of the streets, Graham played one year at Three Rivers Community College in Missouri with Latrell Sprewell.
"That was my buddy," he says. "That was 88-89."
When Graham got out of prison in the mid-90s, he played streetball with and against almost anyone with a big name in DC – Lonnie Harrel, Baby Shak, Curt Smith, Greg Jones, Moochie Norris... And you know Graham was cooking dudes.
"In high school and in my 20s, I jumped so high that everyone called me Giddy Up Graham," he says. "In prison, most of the time I was so much better than mostly everyone, where I basically turned into a 6-4 Kobe type. I was doing everything. My average numbers were like 27 ppg, 15 boards, 6 assists, 4 blocks and numerous dunks. I was unstoppable."
At close to 40 and back in prison on a new bid for a marijuana charge, Graham is still filling up the stat sheet and surprising his fellow prisoners with his game.
"It's unfortunate that I basically spent my prime b-ball years in prison," Graham says. "But I love basketball and grew up playing whenever I got the chance, day or night. My first year of college was an experience that I cherish, because the average young black from a poor inner city family very rarely does that."
A year after college, Graham was doing 5-15 years.
"Every prison I've been to I've always been the best player or in the top 2," Graham says.
And he's balled with some of the best prison ballers. Dudes like Purple, Laruan Queen, DJ and Monkee.
"Guys couldn't understand what a guy with all that athletic ability and talent was doing in prison instead of pursuing a professional career," Graham says reflecting. "In Lorton, I'm a legend and it's nowhere you can go in the feds and a guy who was doing time in the 90s and don't know Graham."
A lot of dudes consider Graham one of the best ever.
"I've done eight years in prison off and on," he says. "I like going at whoever is supposed to be the best on the pound. There's usually 15-20 guys, who in my opinion can ball on most compounds."
Graham will take it right to them. Scoring at will, running the break, throwing court-long passes, rebounding and throwing down the monster dunk. Even at 37 years old.
"I come from Lorton, which is the Terror Dome," Graham says. "So when you talk about going hard, that's in my blood. I was always like the show. The one to watch."
About prison ball he says: "Some guys go hard and some can't, because they lack the heart. You got a lot of guys that get in their feelings, which is good if it's for the right reason. But some guys just like to put shit in the game, because they lack skill or just not a true balla. I take pride that I've never been the type to cry about bullshit on the court. I'm a true balla, I never trip."
But dudes trip on Graham's game.
"I've always been the superstar in here," Graham says. "I was an All-Star on the streets, so prison is always going to be light work for me. Back in the day I really felt outta place, because I was just way too talented to be playing in prison. It frustrated me a lot of times that I really couldn't have fun like on the street."
"I definitely could have played Division I, college ball, because I got letters from them, but I didn't get my SAT's" Graham says. "And I believe if I would have been fortunate enough to have had proper guidance, my potential could have reached its peak. I could have played pro."
But in the pen lost dreams are a common occurrence. Still when you play for the love of the game, it's all about that W.
"I'm definitely all about winning," Graham says. "If you're not about winning, you're not a true balla or competitor."
"Basketball will always be a big part of my life, it was my first love," Graham says. "I'm pushing 40 and have obviously lost a lot of my spring in my legs and my explosiveness, but I'm still a problem in the open court even though I rely on my jump shot more. Still I like to watch and play, although it hurts me inside to watch pro basketball, because even though I've accepted not making it, your mind never lets you forget what possibly could have been under different circumstances."
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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