BLACKTOP ROOTS SERIES PART I: MELVIN ROBERTS & THE CRABHOUSE
To kick off the “Blacktop Roots” series discussing DC Summer Leagues we start with the iconic, legendary Melvin Roberts Summer League. The League has a rich history of tradition that still exists in the DC area to this day.
First, I was able to catch up with Melvin Roberts Jr. who touched on how great it was for him as a kid to be around his father’s summer league.
“It was the best ever, because I was a little kid and I got to go and watch Moses Malone and Bernard King and Len Bias and all those people play basketball. It was great for me.”
When asked about
the intensity of the games during the summers, Roberts Jr. responded, “Man, it was so intense. He had the crab house too, which made everything go together. You come out here, you could eat your crab, you could drink your beer and still watch basketball. You’re talking 10 o’clock at night- you’re eating crabs, drinking beer and playing basketball. That’s what they wanted
in the 70’s that was perfect.”
To finish up the conversation, Roberts Jr. stated that, “Melvin Roberts started all of this” to echo the intensity of the league and pay homage to his father’s accomplishments and garner the rightful attention that the leagues tradition deserves.
“Being around the league did wonders for me, because I was a player that was looking for somebody to give me a chance and an opportunity. Melvin picked me up when I was sixteen years old and it changed my whole outlook on basketball and life in general,” said Ducky Vaughn who was mentored by Melvin Roberts and played in the Summer League.
“It was very competitive, they came from all around the country. Philadelphia, New York, California, Atlanta to play- all the NBA players came to play. The summer we played for the championship, we played against the Bullets when they had Rick Mahorn and Frank Johnson- that was really the Summer that stuck out to me,” said Vaughan.
“Melvin was like a father to me. Melvin built my confidence – he did a lot for me, because the things he was trying to teach us were life lessons. He always made me realize that all you have to do is give people a chance- that’s all I’ve tried to do with my life,” said Vaughn.
Vaughn also touched on the intensity and crowds that formed to catch Melvin’s games during the summer.
“People had to get there at 2 o’clock for a 4’clock game and 12’oclock for the 2’clock game. The place was just sold out. Melvin’s tournaments were some of the biggest outdoor tournaments you could imagine,” said Vaughan.
Next, I got to talk with DC basketball legend Curt Smith who was able to watch the league as a teenager.
“Every summer was a highlight. Every summer was very competitive- every time they stepped out onto the court was definitely a site to see, especially for the young guys, because we all looked up to them,” said Smith.
“He set the trend for a lot that’s going on right now. Melvin played a major part in a lot of these guys that are out here with summer leagues right now,” said Smith.
Lastly, I spoke with Stacy Robinson who is considered by many as the greatest DC high school/playground legend of all time and also played in the Melvin Roberts Summer League. Robinson harped on how impactful the league was for him as he was able to play with iconic DC talent such as left handed great Delonte Taylor and Jerome Macdaniels.
“Being around Melvin Roberts Summer League was a dream for all kids coming out of the area. He was such an icon to a lot of us- he was bigger than basketball. He was a father figure to a lot of kids,” said Robinson.
“One summer as we laced up on the blacktop down at Melvin’s Crabhouse , he had Bernard King, Moses Malone, Greg Sanders, Ducky Vaughan- all them guys on the same team. Just playing against them- that was such a great feeling,” said Robinson.
“The intensity of the games was like the NBA, it was a pro atmosphere at Melvin’s- so many people came from all over,” said Robinson.
“Melvin Roberts used to pull me to the side and say I’m here for you. That was the most important part about him- he was a people’s person. Never turned his back on you- always willing to sit down and talk with you whatever you were going through. He was an icon in Washington DC,” said Robinson.
The Melvin Roberts Summer League truly was an inspirational and impactful part of DC basketball that fostered contributions both on and off the court. Stay tuned for more from the “Blacktop Roots” series as we discuss DC Summer Leagues that have existed over the years leading up to the Legend Coalition.