Sports Matter because Ball is Life / by Alex Young

Sports are powerful because they create genuine experiences. I walked onto the basketball court on Manhattan St, Pittsburgh with my Official NBA ball and my DSLR perfectly waiting to capture the following moment. The itch to play basketball, its convenient location and neighborhood environment brought me to this particular court, so I was excited to start shooting around. I hit a couple three-pointers and made my layups; while I was playing a man-- who you could tell just wanted to play ball-- approached me. He asked, "Can I shoot with you?" I welcomed his company with a deal, "I'll let you shoot with me if you let me take your picture." He delightedly said sure after I told him the intended purpose. He took some jumpers and I observed, he would collect himself and we would converse then he'd continue loving the game. DeAndre from South Central, Los Angeles was in The Burgh visiting his Sister. He told me how he wished to move back to the area to buy one of the abandoned houses because he felt the community was peaceful. The inability to enjoy his neighborhood playground due to gang wars made the Manhattan court a welcome site for him. DeAndre, a retired basketball coach and minister, explained to me his Serra Catholic schooling and time spent at Tackle on the football field. "When we played Mater Dei we roughed them up," he chuckled to me.

I knew the game of pickup he wanted to play would not be gentle. DeAndre took to the paint on offense, using his width against my slender form. On defense he was physical, although I was much quicker than he was. I drove around him creating open layups, a few missed on my part and my at times yielding D kept the game interesting. I was playing with the lead as rain began to mix with our sweat. Thunder cracked and a jolt of lightening made us aware the game was ending. We left exchanging pleasantries; he noted how school can take you anywhere and encouraged me to keep working hard. I thanked him for the experience and he walked left back to a house, I got in my car and drove away.

Basketball naturally brought about a conversation between DeAndre and I, who had previously never met. A shared love for the game allowed us to engage on an authentic level that generated curiosity as we spoke about our life experiences. Sport brought DeAndre and myself together on July 6, 2015, good game.