The Run

Recently a call came into the league office from the Staten Island District Attorney’s office. The assistant DA asked for Craig Raucher and not knowing what to think I of course answered the call. The ADA wanted to play ball with us and was told in his office that the Staten Island Basketball League had the best “run“ on the Island. Of course we invited him down.

Now for those of you who play b-ball the term “run” has a much different meaning to players. Having the “best run” takes on a greater meaning. The term run is the b-ball language for the game itself in a venue. People come to different parks in New York City, different gyms and other locations looking for a good run. A good run means that the game is very competitive. It means that the players are very competitive. It means that the game is played at a high level with guys that can play.

The magnetism and the appeal to players is that they always want to go to a place where the run is always good. Not good once in a while but good all the time. This league and these players here provide the run. We have the best run on the Island and prove it twice a week in and week out. How is your run?

The Court

Here it is look at it. You have seen it years before in a thousand different cities.
When you walk through the doors of the venerable school on to the time worn basketball court you are transported back decades.
It is an old gym in an old school in an old working class neighborhood. The gym is defiant about giving in and at 80 years old looking forward to its 100 th birthday.
The gym is well worn but well kept. The backboards are wooden and have accommodated endless bank shots and good shots and bad shots but remain strong and sturdy.
The rims are forgiving and have accepted innumerable shots. The floors are aged but always washed and ready. Some spots are patched. The only modern features are the high tech speakers mounted on the ceiling connected to an equally high tech stereo system. We warm up to music from The Eagles to almost anything.
The sounds are universal: squeaking sneakers, men yelling out picks, bodies hitting, cursing.
The smell is a mixture of rubbing liniment, sweat, powder, gatorade
This is heaven on earth.

The Zone

If you play the game you know what the zone is. It is a physical and emotional place you strive of to be in. It validates you as a player. It is the result of thousands of games played over dozens of years with hundreds of players. The zone is when you cannot miss. You shoot you score. Long distance short distance it goes up it goes in. Three, four five times in a row. Unconscious. It does not happen often but when it does it is magical. We have all been there…but not enough

The Origin: Great Kills Park – Staten Island, New York

Located right outside of Public School 8 where the League plays. We started as unlimited numbers of urban kids have always begun by playing in the park. Some call it the court or the yard or the school. Outdoors. New York, Chicago, Miami, Houston, LA, Madrid, Seoul, Cape Town all cities across the USA and the world have thousands of them. They are all the same: old, backboards metal and rusting, rims tight and unforgiving. Water fountains working or broken. Guys getting high in the back smoking weed, drinking, gambling. Maybe a net is electric taped to the hoop maybe it is just a rim. The court is cement hard.

We went to learn how play the game school yard style. Play ground ball. No refs. Physical, difficult, uplifting and redeeming. The competition strong and the games intense. Nothing easy and you have to bring it. You lose and you can sit for an hour with many people waiting. You win and run the table you own the court. But only for that day. The game is pure. You score more points and you win.

In the winter we shoveled the snow from the court and played with gloves on. In the Summer the sun was unrelenting and played until we wilted from the heat. From this park we played in places called the Pit, the Zoo, the Jungle, the Beach. Competition got bigger better and stronger.

The lessons learned on the court carried through life. Team work, hard work, camaraderie.