There are those who claim playground basketball has died. That the days are gone when streetball icons like Rafer “Skip To My Lou” Alston, Larry “The Bone Collector” Williams, Ed “Booger” Smith, Billy “The Kid” Harris, and Earl “The Goat” Manigut could make huge names for themselves because of their stone cold talent and show-stopping style. But true hoopers know that the game is very much alive and well. All over the country, there are courts that preserve the creativity and spirit of the game for future generations.
The top-flight streetball runs are all cut from the same cloth and the energy is still as switched on as it always was. Players bring style plus skill and season the mix with trash talk. Crowds pack the sidelines — practically in bounds when the action is heated — letting players know when they’re on and when they’re not.
Watching these games is to witness true freedom on the basketball court. There are no coaches barking play calls and no need for organized sets. Players run pick and rolls, back door cuts, lobs, and above all one-on-one showdowns. Above all, it’s about the love of the game.
So while scoring tickets for Madison Square Garden and Cameron Indoor are a must, seeing a run at these free venues should also be on your #HoopGoals list. These are the courts that show basketball at its roots — with players who simply battle for bragging rights on a daily basis. Watching these games, you’ll be reminded of basketball’s soul and fall in love with the game all over again.
Venice Beach Courts — Los Angeles, CA
Venice is the signature outdoor basketball experience. With its picturesque SoCal beach setting, the area is a classic tourist checkpoint. But while these courts have made cameos in movies, the games are for real. In its heyday, Venice was the proving ground — not only for LA hoopers — but players from all over. Don’t let the palm trees and seabreeze fool you, these games had as much grit and intensity as they did style and showmanship.
Organized games and an abundance of gyms have hampered the quality of the regular runs at this court. But the recently formed Venice Basketball League (VBL) offers up a new forum that should get you excited to catch games there this summer.