We always hear about the street kids who made good in the NBA. The ones who splashed onto the scene like Kobe Bryant did, almost fully-formed as a pro from the start. Or the players who their way through, found themselves left out of the NBA draft, only for a team to take one more look at their obvious athleticism, like Pascal Siakam.
That’s basketball seen from the top down. From the bottom up, there are countless local legends. The playground legends, high school phenoms, the odd ducks who had the skills but didn’t care to take up a contract offer. That’s where Aquille Carr lands: a head-turning legend with an enigmatic nickname to match. Why was Aquille called ‘The Crimestopper’? It takes a dive into his eruption on the Baltimore basketball scene to get the answer.
How Aquille Carr pushed through a difficult upbringing to find his talent on the court
Ian McCarthy, president and GM of the PBL Mill Rats, summed up Carr’s unique circumstances in an interview with Vice. “He wasn’t really allowed to grow up and just be an ordinary kid,” McCarthy said. “In a lot of ways he’s still a kid. He’s still got some growing to do.”
He grew up in a high crime corner of Baltimore, pushed by his family to spend more time with the school’s basketball team than out on the streets. Once he hit the high school level, the 5-foot-9 point guard rose above the competition. It created an odd dichotomy, that of a teenage with star power, but none of the financial winnings that go with such a reputation.
It contributed to erratic academic performance. Further, it affected him on the court, the Baltimore Sun reports, as he often squabbled with officials and threw tantrums after difficult possessions. If this level of stardom for a kid who ultimately went undrafted in the NBA seems like a stretch, consider how he got his nickname, ‘The Crimestopper.’
Carr’s “Crimestopping” performances made him an instant local legend
Carr’s memorable nickname refers to the massive crowds he drew whenever he hit the court as a high schooler and an amateur player. So many people from throughout his neighborhood showed up to see him play, that crime notably dropped during game time. And this isn’t just the stuff of some apocryphal legend.
Salon‘s reporting notes that it was a legitimate phenomenon. The teenage kids so often targeted for dealing drugs would stay at school, lining up for the 5:00 PM game time to guarantee seats. A notorious nearby open air drug market visibly dwindled in attendance, a side effect of people of all ages throughout the community rushing off to witness Carr’s unstoppably slick moves.
Why Carr missed his small window to transition to a career in the NBA
As Complex reports in this melancholy breakdown of the lives of some of the greatest local basketball legends in history, academics are often the first bump in the road. The skills required to be a force on the basketball court don’t always overlap neatly with the academic requirements of a Division I school. ‘The Crimestopper’ ran into this familiar roadblock.
He was forced to bounce between various junior colleges, eventually finding his way onto semi-pro squads. Despite rising to a national profile via a YouTube mixtape going viral, Carr’s top offer came instead from an Italian squad. The $750,000 offer paled compared to what the NBA potentially had in store, so he declined. It’s a decision he all but certainly doubts today.
These days, Carr is capable of making himself the center of attention, if not on the massive stage he dreamed of. In 2019, he dropped a record-setting 65 points with the ABA’s Baltimore Hawks. Had he played his cards differently, perhaps he’d be playing in the NBA. Or perhaps he’d be a superstar abroad, playing in Italy or in the vibrant Chinese pro scene. He’s still out there, still grinding, coming up big for a professional team — but his indelible mark on the public imagination will forever be his feats in high school.