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.

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