New York is famous for many things, from entertainers to restaurants to art and architecture. The city also has its own brand of basketball, played on courts throughout the five boroughs. Below are our five favorite public basketball courts. You can watch and cheer, or get out and show the spectators your very own dunk. By Jessica Allen.
Named for a wealthy politician with a civic-minded heart, McLaughlin Park is located in Brooklyn’s Vinegar Hill. The popular basketball courts are a perfect place to while away an afternoon, either shooting hoops or watching all the action. There’s usually a full-court pick-up game or two happening, so definitely lace up your sneakers, grab a ball, and head on down.
The five courts at Pier 2 in Brooklyn Bridge Park offer the best view of any basketball court in the city. As you wait to be subbed in or cheer from the sidelines, you can gaze out at the East River and Manhattan twinkling beyond. (For a real thrill, book one of the covered courts at 9 or 10 p.m.) The park also offers roller skating, handball, and people-watching galore. On Sundays, check out Smorgasburg across the way and fill up at one of the 75+ food vendors.
Probably the most famous public basketball court in the city, Rucker Park is notorious for hosting and/or producing serious athletes. How serious? Many who’ve shot hoops here have gone on to play in the NBA, including Rafer Alston, Allen Iverson, LeBron James, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The park’s annual Entertainers Basketball Classic (EBC) tournament is considered to be one of the greatest street basketball tournaments in the world.
Grab some cheap dumplings from a joint in nearby Chinatown or an ice cream from Morgenstern’s, then head over to Sara D. Roosevelt Park to watch the action. This long, skinny park brings a bit of green to the Lower East Side, along with playgrounds, tennis courts, a community garden, soccer fields, and tons of benches. As is the case on a lot of courts throughout the city, the basketball games here tend to be fast, furious, and physical.
There’s never not a game going on at the courts at West 4th Street. People pass by or peer in, hoping to get a glimpse of a present or future great playing at the so-called Cage (named for the smaller-than-regulation courts made by the chain-link fences). In addition to the everyday games, there’s an annual streetball tournament and slam-dunk contest, as well as regular league play (see the Facebook page for details).