On one of the final warm weekends in New York City, dozens of amateur basketball players tore up the public courts at Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 2 in DUMBO. Players knew they’d best get in those last few games now.
Groups of teens and young adults, in colorful jerseys and tank tops, pounded the pavement in their Nikes, the soles squeaking as they dribbled and jumped and blocked. Someone’s small, personal stereo blasted motivational hip hop anthems, the soundtrack to which these athletes would show off their inner NBA, while the rattle of balls bouncing off of backboards and rims vibrated through the air.
Forty-eight-year-old Jamel Levy, Sr., of nearby Red Hook, brought his two sons—Jamel Jr., 13, and Kwan, 12—to Pier 2 to sink some baskets. As brothers, practicing together “builds a better bond” between them, Jamel Jr. said, adding that it enhances their physical fitness, too.
“I think most all pro-basketball players grew up from playing basketball on courts like these,” said Kwan, referencing the ragtag atmosphere. “I don’t think good basketball players play on good courts. I think they play in their neighborhood.”
Kwan confessed that he harbors ambitions of going pro one day. But for his father, practicing basketball together is about more than fame and glory. “It teaches them what it’s like to work as a team, as a unit,” he said. Relegating his sons just to school and afterschool activities would be “too limiting.”
He may be onto something: A 2009 University of Kansas study found that high schoolers who played team sports enjoyed higher graduation rates and better GPA’s than those who did not.
“The best thing about being a parent is, you can look back into your life and see the things you wish you could have had,” Jamel said, “and, since there’s no time machine, you give it to the kids that you have now, and make sure they get those opportunities.”