Renaldo Johnson has never been the flashy basketball player. He’s always been that tough, rugged big man just waiting to issue a little pain to those brave souls bold enough to try to score an easy bucket inside.
Those attributes aren’t commonly associated with the Streetball professionals who earn their paychecks in the shadows of the NBA. It’s usually the guys with the sick crossover or the individual with the insane vertical leap who are less than six feet tall.
Yet there’s Johnson, running up and down the court on FoxSports as a member of “Ball Up Streetball,” an hourlong television show that chronicles the lives of the most exciting playground-style hoopsters.
“A lot of people didn’t take it serious at first. They thought it was a fad,” Johnson said.
He has certainly come a long way since his prep days at Sidney Lanier High School, where he was an All-Metro selection in 1997, when he averaged a double-double.
Johnson barely even goes by his childhood name of “Scooter” anymore. Now he’s simply known now as “Violator” — a nickname given to him during an Allen Iverson celebrity game in 2006.
It was there that the Montgomery native was recruited to join the And 1 Mixtape tour, a traveling Streetball showcase that took the basketball culture by storm several years ago and became an overnight smash on ESPN among kids and teen viewers.
“When And 1 was at its peak, there were some guys making six figures playing Streetball,” said Johnson, who was an And 1 contract player for six years. “I looked at it as another way of making money. I wanted to play competitively, and you found out quick that playing Streetball is just as competitive as playing overseas or playing any other type of ball.”
Suiting up for And 1 was a complete opposite from Johnson’s previous basketball experience. Following a solid two-year career at East Tennessee State, the 6-foot-7 shot-blocker spent several seasons playing professionally for various club teams overseas. Yet he never entertained thoughts of an NBA career.
“Playing overseas was my main goal,” said Johnson, who currently resides in Atlanta. “I never really dreamed about going to the NBA. … I always knew I could compete on an NBA level because I would play in the summer leagues against some of them.”
Presently, the former Poet is preparing for Ball Up’s 2013 tour (10 cities, two countries). The novelty of Streetball has tailed off in recent years, but players who still carry the torch are racking up about $50,000 annually for less than five months of work.
“Of course, we’re not bringing in the money like when Streetball was in its heyday,” Johnson said. “Now it’s like a regular job, but the difference is that we only work about three months, whereas most people work 11 months out the year.”
Though Streetball remains Johnson’s lone source of income, he realizes that one day his leaping ability will decline and life beyond the court will begin. So the 33-year-old currently is completing a master’s degree in IT Project Management at Strayers University.
“I’ve heard stories of guys coming home from overseas, and they’ve been out of work for so long that they’ll have to start back over because their job experience is outdated,” he said. “I figured I needed to have this on my resume to show that I do currently have the necessary skills to jump into the job force.”