It also had a basketball scene that resembled actual basketball, which, even in this era of "Peak TV," is bafflingly rare. Most footage still looks like something out of a Disney Channel Original Movie. The ball movement is nonexistent, the "ankle-breaking moves" unnatural, the verisimilitude altogether MIA.
"Game Day," the ninth episode of the show's first season, looked realistic because the actors weren't acting. "The people that you saw playing ball were people who played ball in those situations in those neighborhoods," Pat Moran, the casting director for "The Wire," told Sports Illustrated for an oral history of that onscreen gameplay.
Among those locals on the court: Kwame Evans (Southern), who had played at George Washington; Che Evans (Southern), who'd played at Bowie State; Maurice Blanding (Edmondson), who'd played at Colorado State-Pueblo; and Andre "Silk" Poole (Patterson), who'd played at CCBC-Essex and later for the And1 streetball team.
Also on the court: Bino Ranson (St. Frances), a Southern New Hampshire Hall of Fame inductee and now a Maryland men's basketball assistant coach.
"It was pretty cool because you had guys out there that could actually play," he told SI. "You were really just hooping. It was pretty cool, just to be there with Avon Barksdale and Wee-Bey, and to have those guys. Their job was really actors and our job was really basketball players."
Unfortunately for Ranson, his job apparently was to be a bad basketball player for the West team, or at least the one with the worst luck, having to "guard" the East's best players.
After an auspicious onscreen debut, in which he hits an apparent free throw (above) and drives the lane for an alley-oop pass ...
... we get to see the worst of Ranson's game: his defense. He gets twisted up in a left-to-right crossover by an ex-Dunbar star at the top of the key. We've all been there. But this is the face of a man who does not know that the worst is yet to come.
The West goes into halftime up 12, Avon's feeling good, and the East's two-year winning streak is in peril. Enter the ringer played by "Silk," also identified as "this [bleepin'] midget" by Stringer Bell.
Silk goes one-on-one. He does fancy dribbling: crossovers, behind-the-backs, stuff you'd see in "NBA Street." Ranson doesn't handle it well.
Rather than get a new defender or settle into a 2-3 zone, we see the West stick with Ranson on Silk, even as its lead dwindles. This only emboldens Silk. With the game tied late and the party of the year on the line, we see him put Ranson on his backside with a Rucker Park-worthy fake pass.
("That play where Silk hit me up … that was strictly for the cameras," Ranson told SI. "I got paid for that.")