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Boy, Do I Miss Pickup Basketball!
Boy, Do I Miss Pickup Basketball!
Published by Swampy Meadows
09-08-2020
Boy, Do I Miss Pickup Basketball!

BEVERLY HILLS (MI) -- The COVID-19 pickup basketball quarantine quagmire has been going on for roughly 6 months now. While gyms are starting to reopen in some states and rims are being reinstalled in a few playgrounds, the question as to whether “To hoop or not to hoop?” remains up in the air.

I’ve played pickup basketball from Vermont all the way to California and many spots in between, with guys like Ryan Perryman, Negele Knight & Vinnie Johnson, as well as a host of has-beens and never-wasses. In pickup hoops it doesn’t matter who you are...all are welcome. There is a universal, passionate appeal to those of us who partake in lacing them up, choosing teams and trying to win with a group of guys you’ve never seen before...or with whom you have played for decades.

I’ve been fortunate enuf to be part of more than a few regular pickup runs in my time. I learned the game back at Bennett School in my hometown of Leominster, MA; played at the indoor hoops hangar at University Hall my freshman year and up on Stuart Hill at UD and later at the PAC and RecPlex; at various churches, schools and South Park in Pittsburgh; more churches and schools here in Michigan as well as Peterson Park in Detroit. My two longest tenured runs were the once-a-year games in Stone Harbor, NJ that went on for 20+ years and at lunchtime at the Y in Birmingham, which flamed out a few years back, but had just been revived right before the ‘Rona hit. I miss them all!

Let’s take a look at how pickup hoops and the dudes and dudettes who play it around the world have been impacted:

From The Undefeated: During the pandemic, there are no winners in pickup basketball

https://theundefeated.com/features/d...asketball/amp/

How long can I live without the competition? Will I be able to resist the temptation of people showing up at my park? I don’t know. I’ve never turned my back on the game before.

“For people like us, playing basketball is extending our lives, or at least enhancing their quality,” my friend Young said. “The irony is, now this thing that is enhancing our life could possibly ruin it. Or end it.”


From The Guardian in Australia: Pick-up basketball bounces back after Covid cancellation

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/20...on-photo-essay

Pick-up is unstructured, free-flowing basketball, organised on an ad hoc basis at thousands of indoor and outdoor courts across Australia. There are no referees, no scoreboards and few rules. “Playing pick-up helped me find my passion for basketball again,” Govind says. “If I made a mistake, no one would care. If I missed all the shots, no one would care. If I played like Kobe, everyone would cheer. It’s just fun.”

From Sarasota: Longing for some pickup basketball

https://www.heraldtribune.com/story/...all/112581284/

They are an eclectic group of salesmen, grocery store clerks, retirees and restaurant workers, along with anyone else interested in trading in an afternoon lunch for some sweat and a pickup game.

Long-range shooters who enjoy playing behind the 3-point line while chatting it up incessantly, clumsy big men who plod up and down the court, or crafty veterans who try to outthink a more athletic opponent. There are hot-shot YouTube musicians who play with a nice rhythm and doctors and nurses who come in handy when the inevitable injury crops up.


I can personally vouch for the efficacy of having doctors playing, as my friend Frank collapsed and almost died in Stone Harbor years ago and one of the guys hooping was a cardiologist. Two more MDs appeared on the scene within seconds.

From Washington, DC: Pickup basketball players, quarantined during an outbreak, have lost their courts and community

https://theundefeated.com/features/d...asketball/amp/

“Where you say sports can break down barriers and all of that, it really started to be true in my case,” said the 49-year-old Saleem, who now lives in Maryland. “By being able to show I can play basketball, just like everybody else, kind of allowed me to assimilate better and not be that: ‘Who’s that strange brown guy in our school?’ ”

Make no mistake: Players aren’t missing pickup games for the quality of play. Although many amateur ballers drop hundreds of dollars per year just to rent an indoor court, their games mirror basketball at its most primitive. Players walk back on defense, athleticism is optional, and there’s always that guy, such as Dylan Osborne, a 25-year-old police officer in Roanoke, who jacks up too many bad three-pointers.


From The Root: Is indoor pickup basketball done?

https://verysmartbrothas.theroot.com...one-1843546139

Still, I am very sad. Because as hard as I squint, I just don’t see a path where pickup basketball looks anything like it did pre-COVID. Before the pandemic, I hooped three to five times a week; sometimes at the LA Fitness in Bakery Square, and sometimes in private-ish open gyms. I haven’t played since early March, which is the longest stretch I’ve gone without playing since 1998, the summer I tore my ACL. And I’m so anxious to play again that, despite not owning a driveway, I just bought one of those portable basketball hoops...for driveways.

I do have a driveway and Mrs. Swampy bought me a portable hoop for Fathers Day and that’s where all my hoopin’ happens nowadays.

From The Anchorage Daily News: Late night pickup games at an Anchorage gym showcase Alaska’s best basketball talent

https://www.adn.com/sports/2020/07/1...tball-talents/

Eager to get the state’s best basketball players together in the same gym at the same time, Isa Wilson of Anchorage went to work.He rented a gym, set up a schedule and reached out to players. He invited a mix of professionals, college stars and all-state high school kids.

The result was a slam dunk.

“All it took to get Alaska buzzing about basketball outside the season was to do a free run and invite the best players,” said Wilson, 24.


From The Gainesville Times: Culture of competition: Playground basketball players love pick-up games

https://www.gainesvilletimes.com/spo...pick-up-games/

As his team jogs back on defense, Sebastian Telfair takes an inbounds pass and before dribbling looks into the crowd and says, “Watch this.”

Dribbling down the right side of the court, Telfair meets his defender, and with an unconventional crossover manages to bring the crowd to its feet and blow by his man all in one motion.

When Telfair’s feet hit the lane, he zings a no-look pass to a man in the post who completes the play with a rim-rattling dunk.

Telfair is a point guard for the Los Angeles Clippers, but this game was being played on an outdoor court in his hometown of Brooklyn, N.Y.

The game pauses as fans rush the court, jumping up and down, cheering in disbelief at the move Telfair just put on his defender and the pass that followed. The shot wasn’t a game winner and the stakes weren’t high, Telfair was simply playing pick-up basketball.


From The New York Times: A basketball brotherhood calls time out

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/01/s...-new-york.html

A decades-long Manhattan pickup basketball game is on hold because of the pandemic, creating an emotional void for its rotating cast of actors, executives and regular joes.

From NJ.com: Basketball is back in N.J. parks. Will sports feel normal again with coronavirus?

https://www.nj.com/coronavirus/2020/...ronavirus.html

Few things are more purposeless than a hoops backboard without a hoop. From afar, it looks like an optical illusion in a kid’s magazine -- circle what’s wrong with this picture! -- while up close, it feels like the embodiment of civic neglect.

For the past three months, all of the basketball courts in the Essex County parks system were stripped of their rims after the statewide lockdown. No pickup games, no
H-O-R-S-E, no reassuring sound of rubber smacking the pavement.

From Dallas-Ft. Worth: Basketball Hoops Removed To Prevent Pickup Games During Pandemic Restored At Fort Worth Parks

https://dfw.cbslocal.com/2020/09/08/...t-worth-parks/

The decline in coronavirus cases in Texas means a return to normalcy (somewhat) at Fort Worth parks where basketball net were reinstalled. City officials said they waited to put the nets back up until after Labor Day, to avoid another potential spike in cases.

From SUNY New Paltz: Students Test Positive After Pickup Basketball Games, Some Quarantined

https://dailyvoice.com/new-york/ulst...ntined/793468/

All of the students who played in these games or have been in close contact with the three individuals that tested positive have been tested and remain quarantined while the college investigates. They could be suspended.

From Ultimate Hoops: Pickup basketball safety guidelines

https://www.uhlife.com/blog/pickup-b...ety-guidelines

That’s all well and good, but at 70 years old, I’m still not buying what they’re selling.

Here in Detroit: Joe Dumars Fieldhouse In Metro Detroit Dies Because Of Covid

https://www.deadlinedetroit.com/arti...cause_of_covid

Over the quarter-century, the business says, "we entertained over 30 million visitors who participated in basketball leagues (over 7500 teams), pickup basketball (over 1.5 million visits), roller hockey leagues (over 9,000 teams), roller hockey tournaments (over 4,000 teams), volleyball leagues (over 3,000 teams) and birthdays and events (over 10,000 parties)."

That’s it “From the Swamp”
You can email me at: swampy@udpride.com
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