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Streetball... a game packed with airballs, alley-oops and fade- aways. If you've got the skills and the ups to take the rock to the hoop, then this is for you.

Don't be unduly alarmed if you've no idea what the previous paragraph meant. Streetball is a simplified version of basketball, possessing its own language, fashion and code. This weekend the Adidas Streetball Challenge arrives in London, having toured the country in an attempt to harness the increasing popularity of basketball in its rawest form.

The tour's success is, in part, due to the simplicity of the game. Two teams of four play each other, and the first to reach 16 points wins. With fewer rules than conventional basketball, the games are notoriously fast and furious.

If you're concerned that you'll face hulking professionals twice your height and with three times your talent, fear not. Teams are organised according to age and experience so competitors should be able to journey safely through the two-day tournament and return home without a size 20 shoe-print across their backs.

Last month I travelled to the Veladrome in Manchester to see the extravaganza for myself. I often like to delude myself that I could have become a good basketball player and I was looking forward to gloating from the sidelines in a smugly superior way. Unfortunately, while the rest of the country was basking in the midst of a heatwave, it was raining heavily in Manchester. Nevertheless, hundreds of competitors attended, determined to have fun despite the weather. I grabbed one smiling competitor, 14-year-old Tommy, and asked him why he was here in the rain. His team had already lost two games by some spectacularly ignominious margins, yet he remained unbowed. "We haven't won any games yet but we've got some good practice," he explained, gasping for breath. "There are some courts round our way. I play a lot of basketball near my house, all my mates do."

Many of today's youngsters now hold Michael Jordan in higher esteem than Ryan Giggs. While football is in no immediate danger of being usurped in the nation's affections by basketball, the number of kids playing on outside courts is steadily rising. The attraction of the game is easy to identify.

Played on concrete, beneath tower blocks of the same material, basketball is fast becoming the game of urban Britain. The sport has long been popular within the black community as black athletes have dominated the American NBA (National Basketball Association), for the last 20 years. In Britain the game now attracts youngsters from urban areas, irrespective of colour.

Basketball is a relatively cheap game to play and is fertile soil for good, old-fashioned working class dreams of sporting fame and fortune. Moreover, basketball's heroes all started in the same way... on the streets.

In the race for the affection of the nation's youth, basketball has one major advantage over its rivals: fashion. Basketball paraphernalia embraces a far wider audience than other sports. Millions of people will have purchased Nike's Air Jordan shoes without ever having seen him play.

Cam is a "baller" and a regular visitor to the outdoor basketball court in Earlsfield, south London. He's a marketing man's dream, dressed in immaculate white Nike trainers, with matching shorts and vest. "Michael Jordan and the NBA players are my heroes," he says enthusiastically. "Basketball is the game. It's quick and addictive. Anyone can play football, but I think basketball is harder to master. I'm into it because it's more exclusive than any other sport."

This weekend's tournament offers the chance to see a sport that's fast growing in this country. Who knows, in the future, Britain could be world- beaters at basketball... John Major will be pleased.

The Adidas Streetball Challenge Sat, Sun 9pm, Battersea Park (details: 0171-413 3000), free

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