The beautiful thing about basketball is that no matter how much money is pumped into the game, its soul can never truly be bought, with kids playing using baskets nailed to walls and parking lots up and down the land turned into makeshift courts.
It’s for this reason that so many fans of the NBA and other basketball leagues have such deep affiliations to the players they support, knowing that back in the day they played on the selfsame gravel ridden courts, as the sun beat down on bare backs, and onlookers hollered from the other side of a mangled chain-link fence.
For those readers with as deep appreciation for the game as this, here are some places you simply must visit before you pop your clogs.
Where will your basketball pilgrimage take you?
Venice Beach (LA)
The beach-side courts in Southern Cali were immortalized in the movie White Men Can’t Jump, with Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson getting a sweat on under the palm trees.
However, there’s a whole lot more to the courts than that, with them holding an annual tournament and even hosting NBA players like Blake Griffin, who often drops by to see what new moves he can pick up from the locals, which can be used to bolster the odds of Detroit making the NBA playoffs.
Basketball is more than just a game
Panathanaikos (Athens, Greece)
Okay, so this one is a little out of left field, in fact it comes to you all the way from the home of the Acropolis in Athens, Greece.
Panathanaikos are just one of the basketball teams that compete in the Greek basketball league as well as the highly competitive Euroleague, but it is their fanatical home support which has basketball fans raving about their O.A.C.A. Olympic Hall’s 19,000 seat stadium, which goes completely wild during game time. Don’t believe us? You have to see it to believe it! Just make sure you wear green if you get yourself a ticket to a game.
Rucker Park (Harlem, New York)
Another basketball court that had a movie made about it was New York’s Rucker Park, which is a true melting pot for b-ball talent from all over Manhattan and beyond. The movie in question was non other than Rebound, starring Don Cheadle.
There is nothing Hollywood about the games that are played on this court, though, with only the toughest and best players rising to the top to write their names in local folklore.
NBA royalty such as Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant have made appearances here, but it is the gnarled hard-ballers who play there day-in day-out who have the neighborhood’s real respect, with the likes of the LA Lakers even drafting Joe “The Destroyer” Hammond on the basis of his performances at the park.
Staples Center (LA)
We’ve all seen the videos of celebrities reacting to insane NBA plays, so close to the action that Justin Bieber could alter the result of a game with the simple spilling of a soft drink.
While we’re not saying you’ll ever be able to get court-side access quite like that, what we are saying is that you should go, order yourself some popcorn, and nosh away as the best in the business do battle on the parquet.
Whether you’re there to catch the Clippers or the Lakers, you’ll be in for a memorable experience.
Red Star (Belgrade, Serbia)
Red Star Belgrade is much more than just a sports club for its fans and players, and since the demise of the soccer team, the basketball team has stepped up as the club’s pride and joy.
Much like the Panathinaikos following, Red Star fans enjoy making one hell of an amount of noise during a game, often leading to referees calling a timeout until their whistles can be heard by both sets of players and confetti is cleared from the court.