Bread City Basketball

The Leap by Cliff Dweller
April 26, 2012, 12:44 pm
Filed under: Basketball, Bread City, Photography, Poetry | Tags: ,

Shooting hoops,
you realize that
the spirit of the universe
swirls around you
like a gentle
blue light
The lowering sun beckons
your eyes and nothing else
This is all you need
This is your life,
that hunk of
one city street,
and you become
a thing of beauty
jumping through
the evening’s stillness
with this pumpkin
in your hand
You choose
to be outside
playing basketball
because you have
a small hole to fill
A net of darkness
that you love
more than a best friend
Street lights are shining again
in the shadow of the city
You’re in the middle,
catching the ball
before you leap
as high as Olympus
And suddenly you see
your fingertips
on the ball
growing older,
growing darker,
the very last drop
of immortality

by Cliff Dweller

1990s tribeca basketball nyc
photo via waiting4brooklyn

Great Jams: Do The Du (Casse)
April 23, 2012, 1:56 pm
Filed under: Basketball, Bread City, Music, Photography | Tags: ,

A Certain Ratio – Do The Du (Casse)


I. American troops play basketball in Saddam Hussein’s occupied Birthday Palace. Tikrit, Iraq, 2004.

Iraq Saddam's Palace Tikrit Basketball
original photo by Paolo Woods

II. The 1948 Summer Games in London was the first and only time that Iraq fielded an Olympic basketball team. They sustained five of the tournament’s worst defeats. Iraq lost to China, Korea, the Philippines, and Chile by an average of 86 points per game. The United States won gold.

Iraqi Olympic Basketball Team

III. “The next week, back in Baghdad, I had a whiskey one evening with the Time bureau manager and a pair of reporters and told them about the killings at the basketball game… The bureau manager lit another cigarette as we sat in silence for a moment. ‘And especially, basketball being a pro-Western sport was nonsense,’ he said. ‘Iraqis have been playing basketball for fifty years, since long before all this. They love it.'”
– From The End of Major Combat Operations, by Nick McDonnell

Richard Mosse's Iraq
photo by Richard Mosse

Best Side
February 1, 2012, 9:14 am
Filed under: Bread City, New York City, Photography, Poetry | Tags: , ,

Hot bowl of pastina,
23rd Street and the river.
Subway grime patina,
shout to chopped liver.

Chelsea Penthouse NYC Photo
photo by Stephan Alessi

January 30, 2012, 12:39 pm
Filed under: Bread City, College Basketball, Music, Sports Photography | Tags: ,

Hypnotic Brass EnsembleSpottie

photo via TGA


What attracted me was the swish, the sound of the dribble, the feel of going up in the air. You don’t need eight others, like in baseball. You don’t need any brothers or sisters. Just you. I wonder what the guys are doing back home. I’d like to be there, but it’s as much fun here, because I’m playing. It’s getting dark. I have to go back for dinner. I’ll shoot a couple more. Feels good. A couple more.
– From A Sense of Where you Are: Bill Bradley at Princeton, by John McPhee

The Knicks stole Bill Bradley in the 1965 NBA Draft. There was no frozen envelope, just a now-obscure rule known as the Territorial Pick. Between 1950 and 1966, NBA teams had first dibs on drafting any college player within 50 miles.

Bradley had graduated from Princeton as the Associated Press Player of the Year, the NCAA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, and a two-time First Team All-American. And since Princeton, New Jersey is 1 mile closer to New York City than to Philadelphia, the Knicks were able to scoop Bradley away from the 76ers as a Territorial Pick.

The rest is history: Bradley played with New York for his entire basketball career – save for one season with Olimpia Milano – and his #24 jersey was retired by the Knicks in 1984.

Bill Bradley Knick

Woody Allen on Earl Monroe

“What makes Monroe different is the indescribable heat of genius that burns deep inside him. Some kind of diabolical intensity comes across his face when he has the ball. One is suddenly transported to a more primitive place…It’s amazing, because the audience’s “high” originates inside Monroe and seems to emerge over his exterior.
– Woody Allen, Sport Magazine, Nov. 1977.

Allen is sent by the once-great Sport to interview Earl Monroe for a cover story. But Pearl never shows and Allen is left to make small talk with “Earl’s lady.” A true fan, Woody swallows the snub and writes a great profile of the arthritic Knicks captain anyway, full of signature wit and basketball wisdom.

I read a transcript of the article once before, but never saw the original scans until yesterday, thanks to the excellent Oakley & Allen. True holy grail status! Check it out.

Earl Monroe photographed by Jim Cummins

January 18, 2012, 6:07 am
Filed under: Art, Bread City, Photography, Shaq | Tags: , , ,

They just don’t make stock photo backdrops like they used to.

Shaq and Olajuwon best 90s centers

Every Basketball Court in Manhattan
January 10, 2012, 6:55 am
Filed under: Art, Basketball, Bread City, New York City, Photography | Tags: , ,

Jenny Odell makes collages from Google Maps’ satellite view mode, like the digital print entitled Every Basketball Court in Manhattan. She writes, “From this view, the lines that make up basketball courts… become like hieroglyphs that read: people were here.”

There are at least 100 in this image. Still, there’s no way she got them all. My favorite courts are somehow obscured. Some are partially hidden from view in chain-link rooftop domes. Others are concealed below the West Side Highway, so safe from the elements that you can play a pick-up game in a hurricane. And many are simple backboards in schoolyards without lines or marks.

But Odell is right about one thing: The court is a record. There are no written accounts or pick-up game historians. The physical court itself is the only proof we have of what happened there.

Jenny Odell Basketball Courts

Helmets and Gloves
January 6, 2012, 2:49 pm
Filed under: Bread City, Hockey, Photography | Tags: ,

For a century now, in hockey, the possibility of having to engage in a fist-fight with a bad character has been the primary deterrent preventing this or that player from trying to hurt an opponent on the other team.
– Nick Paumgarten for The New Yorker, 12/7/11

But what happens when the player you want to hurt is wearing the same color jersey?

This isn’t about hockey equipment. This is about middle-class omertá, and what happens after practice.

In high school locker rooms everywhere, teammates strip their pads down to helmets and gloves, and beat the hell out of each other while the rest of the team watches.

Sometimes it’s a way of settling disputes. Sometimes it’s a way of enforcing team rules. Sometimes it’s just because teenagers like to fight. Either way, helmets and gloves is a bona fide subculture-within-a-sport. It has its own codes of conduct and is a universal experience within North American high school hockey culture. The pads all smell the same. The coaches all look the other way. And it remains a secret.

Boston Bruins, Vintage Polaroid, Hockey Art
photo by Mrs. Toews

The Secret File
November 1, 2011, 8:56 am
Filed under: Bread City, Photography, Poetry | Tags:

New York cops in Jersey
and girls who never smile:
there’s something going on there
that’s in a secret file.

Mysterious girl photo by Ana Kras
photo by Ana Kras


All the carny game barkers have headset microphones; some are saying “Testing” and reciting their pitch lines in tentative warm-up ways. A lot of the pitches seem frankly sexual: You got to get it up to get it in. Take it out and lay ‘er down, only a dollar. Make it stand up. Two dollars, five chances. Make it stand up. Rows of stuffed animals hang by their feet in the booths like game put out to cure. It smells like machine grease and hair tonic down here…
David Foster Wallace, Harpers Magazine, 09/94

David Foster Wallace's essay on the Illinois State Fair
photo by Sam Quinn


Swishing on chain nets
the very last cigarette
the first bowl of cereal
subway timing miracles
crisp American dollars.

photo by Eugene Tan