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Thursday, October 25, 2012

In Nets’ New Home Of Brooklyn, Playground Basketball Still Reigns

The Brooklyn Nets and Washington Wizards play an NBA preseason basketball game at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn last week. (AP/Kathy Willens)

Rapper Jay-Z, bottom right, who is part owner of the Nets, attends the team’s final NBA basketball home game as the “New Jersey Nets,” before the team packs up and move to Brooklyn. (AP/Julio Cortez)

Nearly 40 years ago, a young sportswriter went to Brooklyn and fell in love with the playground basketball scene.

The result was the book “Heaven Is A Playground.”

This summer the author, Rick Telander, went back to Brooklyn to celebrate the arrival of the Brooklyn Nets, the NBA franchise that is now making this basketball hotbed its home.

Telander tells Here & Now’s Robin Young that the kids are still playing ball on the asphalt at Foster Park.

Rapper Jay-Z is part owner of the Nets and has been influential in the team’s move to the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn. He also designed the Nets’ new logo and black-and-white color scheme.


  • Rick Telander, senior sports columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and author of “Heaven Is A Playground.” He tweets @ricktelander.

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  • Robin Read

    Nice piece.
    When “Fly” Williams was playing at Austin Peay, the students would chant, “The Fly is open. Let’s go Peay!”

    Robin Read

    • Alex Ashlock, Here and Now

      Best cheer ever!

  • oh2props

    Great story. If didn’t cross his radar this afternoon, gonna bring it to the attention of my friend Ron Rash who has twice been on Here and Now. He wrote a piece about NC State’s David Thompson a few years ago, and has a short based on him that resonates with one of the characters in this piece.
          I never even made the HS Team but NFL’s Sidney Rice is from my Hometown in Gaffney S.C. and I once got in a pick up game with Kevin Garnett when he was in about the 9th grade. We beat the whole neighborhood. I just ran my mouth and put the ball in play.
        Pat Conroy’s My Losing Season is also a great one for those who love the game, black or white and even a minimum of ability.
        Great Story.
         I’m sharing widely

    • Alex Ashlock, Here and Now

      David Thompson was one of my favorite all time players. I remember watching him lead NC State to that double overtime win over UCLA in the NCAA tournamwent (1974 I think?) He was a special player.

  • Davem

    claredon tech
    Great story, so true.  But not only in Brooklyn, NY it may have been the hub for talent without question.  The story is true for the neighborhood i grow up in.  We lived and breathed the game.
    Counted it a blessing when we would find an open gym with a wood floor.  Remember the shoe (Pony) burned a holed through the sole in one day, no wonder the company didn’t last. 
    Many stories!  The young one’s today need everything organized for them, it is sad.

    • Alex Ashlock, Here and Now

      You’re right, Borrklyn is not the only playground heaven. There’s also Chicago, Detroit, LA. There’s a lot of good street ball out there. Shovel the snow? Yeah, I did that.

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