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March 29, 2010 | by  | in Features |
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“Alt-ball”: The definition of alternative sport

Salient Editor Sarah Robson investigates the origins of the latest craze to sweep Wellington’s indie population—basketball.

It was the part where one indie kid basketball player mistakenly referred to Michael Jordan as Michael Jackson that I started to have my doubts. These guys don’t follow the rules of basketball, because they don’t actually know the rules. Most of them can’t really play basketball. The first time they played, some of them showed up in skinny black jeans. They learned their lesson after that—they donned shorts the next week.

What they lack in technical skill and basketball know-how is made up for by the fact they have a boombox. And a mighty good one to say the least.

A basketball collective, We play basketball on Wednesdays in Aro. Come has been established in Wellington’s Aro Valley. Every Wednesday, weather permitting, a bunch of indie kids descend upon the Aro Street courts for “b-ball”.

It all began at the beginning of the year, when local band the Crackhouse 5 watched the acclaimed film White Men Can’t Jump.

The Crackhouse 5’s Kelvin Neal recalls, “We all sort of romanticised the idea of streetball.”

They don’t actually know much about basketball.

“I don’t know anything about real basketball, at all,” Neal proclaims.

“I know who Michael Jordan is,” offers another b-ball participant.

The first game of b-ball at the Aro Street courts was organised after Neal made a trip to Auckland.

Neal admits he stole the idea to play b-ball from The Ruby Suns, who were playing b-ball games against other Auckland-based bands on a weekly basis.

The half-court version of b-ball is played by the collective.

“There are a few people who play who know the rules, but the rules aren’t enforced in any way at all,” Neal says.

“There’s no out of bounds, no fouls, no rules.”

Another b-ball enthusiast adds, “People often double dribble as well.”

The games are tough physically, and have been known to get quite violent. Injuries are not uncommon.

Neal’s worst is the time he took “a big hit to the nether regions from a knee”.

He says he was forced to sit down for 15 minutes.

Another player’s leg was reportedly cut open in a game, and it subsequently got infected.

One b-baller fell victim to a grazed face.

Thankfully, Neal says there have been no serious injuries sustained by the Aro Street b-ball players.

Most of those in the collective are not blessed with natural sporting prowess, and they freely admit they are crap at basketball.

“Most of us are pretty horrible at sports,” a player says.

“There’s no one you would look at and go ‘they’re an athlete’.”

Neal recalls, “I used to be the last person chosen for the basketball team in school.

“Because I sat on the bench all through high school, now it’s my time to shine.”

Neal is tall and he claims there is a direct correlation between his height and his skill, or at least usefulness, on the court.

Players have commended Neal’s abilities and say, “everyone else is basically like really bad”.

The Aro Street courts are a big part of why the collective plays b-ball.

“It’s got this mural and the photos look gangster and it makes us look really hip,” Neal comments.

Footage of a recent b-ball game at the Aro courts features in a music video by local band Signer.

The collective is unlikely to move their b-ball games to another location.

“The Aro courts are the foundation to our basketball,” Neal says.

Hopefully the weather will improve, and We play basketball on Wednesdays in Aro. Come will once again be able to return to the courts.

It seems fitting to end on a quote from Space Jam: “C’mon, Michael, it’s game time. Slip on your Hanes, lace up your Nikes, take your Wheaties and your Gatorade, and we’ll grab a Big Mac on the way to the ballpark.”

DJ Space Jamz’ ‘Bangin’ BBall Beats’ Playlist:

Jurassic 5—‘The Game’
Shaquille O’Neal—‘Shoot Pass Slam’
The Hood Internet—‘North America Walk It Out ‘
Girl Talk—‘Don’t Stop’
Chiddy Bang—‘The Opposite of Adults (KIDS)’
Daft Punk—‘Robot Rock’
Barkley Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden Soundtrack—‘Space Jam (Remix)’
Run DMC—‘My Adidas’
B-Real, Busta Rhymes, Coolio, LL Cool J & Method Man—‘Hit ‘Em High’
Nelly—‘Air Force Ones’
The Cool Kids—‘Free Throws’
A Tribe Called Quest—‘Can I Kick It?’
Big Boi—‘Shine Blockas (feat. Gucci Mane)’
Public Enemy—‘He Got Game (feat. Stephen Stills)’

Aro Courts
Basketball Slang:

B-Ball: Basketball

Get Some!: An instruction to (figuratively) kill the opposition. Used to psychologically energise or invigorate one’s team-mates. As used (in a literal sense) in Full Metal Jacket.

Slam/Dunk/Slam Dunk: When a player close to the basket jumps and strongly throws the ball down into it; an athletic, creative shot used to intimidate opponents. Of the Aro Courts players only Kelvin can perform a ‘Slam’.

Full Court Press: A defensive style in which the defense applies man-to-man or zone defense to pressure the offensive team the entire length of the court. As heard in Jurassic 5’s song: ‘The Game’.

Jump Shot: An attempt to score a basket by jumping, usually straight up, and in mid-jump, propelling the ball in an arc into the basket.

Blind Pass/No-Look Pass: A pass that is performed while simultaneously looking in the opposite direction from the location of the intended receiver.

Air-Ball: An attempted shot that misses the basket entirely. The performance of an ‘Air-Ball’ typically elicits jeers from opposition players.

Downtown: From 3 point range.

Shoot the J: To perform a ‘Jump-Shot’. As used in the ‘Prince’ episode of The Chappelle Show.

Schooled: To make a successful offensive play that makes an opposition player look bad. Example: Kelvin ‘schooled’ McPhun when he ‘shot the J’ from ‘downtown’.

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About the Author ()

Editor for 2010, politics nerd, panda fan and three-time award-winning student journalist.

Comments (14)

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  1. Your Name says:

    What is the point of your article? It seems that you’re attempting to take some sort of “high ground” as you’re noting that these b-ball players know nothing – and use the murals as a background to, quote, “look hip.” Whatever you were trying to say – you are clearly too scared to say it.
    What I think should be celebrated and would perhaps provide you with a clear angle for your story, would be the fact that these “indie kids” who “show up in their skinny jeans” are doing something different. They’re gathering as a collective and playing sports, having fun and getting fit.
    How awesome is that? I think it’s cool that event is getting documented, but your story is a bit weak.

  2. yo says:

    some friends play basketball on a public court

    stop the presses

  3. JP says:

    I was playing basketball before it got all commercial.

    In other news, my friends and I have started regularly drinking whisky. Press release forthcoming.

  4. Duncan McNaughton says:

    Wow! That sounds really fun!

  5. Kim Wheatley says:

    Let’s not overreact here y’all. While Sarah’s article does poke a bit of fun at our bball ‘collective’ I don’t think that her article is in any way malicious. Regardless, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed our attempt at reclaiming the act of playing sports from the stereotypes of having to be athletic, macho, competitive etc.

    Oh, and here’s the link to Daniel Batkin-Smith’s gorgeous video for ‘Languidly Toot’, which was shot during one of the Crackhouse 5 vs Ruby Suns + Signer games:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0z9BQh7PqVc

  6. ? says:

    haha how is this denigrating anything? bit of an over reaction!

  7. Your Name says:

    Wednesday basketball sounds great!

    Padré Carrington – that was neither funny, witty, nor intelligent. But it was crass and annoying.

  8. ... says:

    Sarah you are awesome. Best article ever read in Sail the Lient evarrrrrrrrrrr!!!

  9. Greg says:

    “Regardless, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed our attempt at reclaiming the act of playing sports from the stereotypes of having to be athletic, macho, competitive etc.”

    holy fucking lol you actually think this is a new idea and not something that’s been done since forever

  10. **** says:

    Robson is calling a spade a spade and if you cann’t dig it then go watch these kids playing and tell me her article isn’t a good honest reaction to the hilarity of this interesting item of culture.

  11. Kim Wheatley says:

    @Greg I didn’t say anything about bball being in any way ‘new’ or ‘original’, and if that’s what you thought was implied then I can assure you that it wasn’t by design. It’s basically just been a bunch of un-sporty friends having fun playing basketball in a way which we are comfortable with, nothing more, nothing less. It’s all pretty harmless and irreverent! What’s the hang-up?

  12. Greg says:

    It’s the back slapping high fives you guys are giving it, by virtue of its privileged position in this week’s issue. “Alt sports = some guys play basketball in their spare time, pretty cool” sorry kim, just think there’s a bigger scope for alternative sports than “the arts editor and his friends play ball”.

    i thought the roller derby feature was interesting though

  13. matthew says:

    yeah this is a weird article. today we r watching jersey shore, just ate some mi goreng. expect a 4 page spread in this week’s sunday magazine.

  14. It was really interesting article. Honestly speaking I was completely unaware of this game. It was quite interesting to know something new. I am feeling like my surfing had been fruitful.

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