The Uptown Challenge basketball league, which features some of New York City’s elite high school and college women players, has returned for another summer of entertaining and intense competition.
The league was founded in the early 2000s by Jim Couch, affectionately known simply as Mr. Couch by several generations of the New York basketball community and beyond. At 91-years-young, he still runs the Uptown Challenge. Couch was a coach and mentor to among others Lew Alcindor before he changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and became arguably the greatest player ever. He’s assisted by league commissioner Marion Moorer and a dedicated staff.
Sixteen teams total, eight in each division, make up the action that is played on Saturdays and Sundays throughout the summer at Courtney Callender Playground on West 130th Street and Fifth Avenue in Harlem. UC games are announced by MC Chocolate. DJs Jamel and Shake-and-Bake rock the park with music. Brittany Ray, a former Rutgers University basketball star, hosts a podcast from the park.
“I love when the players come to visit and tell me about school, college, graduating, their careers and their accomplishments,” said Couch, who also loves seeing old friends.
“Tiny Archibald, Tom Hoover, Tobias Harris, Ray Haskins and Julius Allen came by a few weeks ago to visit on opening day,” said Couch, naming some of New York’s prominent basketball figures. Archibald is one of the greatest point guards of all-time and Harris is currently a starting forward for the Philadelphia 76ers.
But the well wishers are not limited to hoops icons. Pioneers of music are also likely to pop in. “Red Alert stopped by on Sunday,” noted Couch, speaking of the hip-hop DJ who helped pioneer rap and still spins on 107.5 WBLS.