NEW YORK—The basketball court of Kips Bay Towers is an asphalt oasis in
Murray Hill, a chain-linked refuge where a scuffed backboard, once
pristine white, hangs as a canvas of missed lay-ups and passed time.
We, six-year veterans of strokes gone awry, fancy ourselves the playground’s primary artists.
I have lived here all my life, but my friends and I first began
congregating at the court during our sophomore summer at Regis High
School. Usually five or six guys strong, we’ve played countless games
and endured epic battles of knock-out, twenty-one, and three-on-three.
Quickly, we established traditions: watching movies afterwards at the
theater next door, eating all our post-game meals at the nearby Gemini
Diner, constantly joking and talking trash. Each day, someone would
inevitably hear a gibe about their mother and/or sister which would
have made Marco Materazzi blush.
On the court, we saw everything from the hilarious (the time
we soundly defeated a troop of 12-year-old challengers) to the
borderline pathetic (how much we relished in loudly swatting the same
12-year-olds’ jump shots). In general, though, the details of our
actual games are pretty unremarkable. Kevin has the deadest eye out of
all of us, Pietro, the sweatiest torso, and I, meanwhile, own a history
of dishing behind-the-back passes which never seem to materialize into
We cannot dunk, we probably miss more shots than we make, and we keep coming back for more.
At least, until this year.
During our putative last hurrah as college students—a long,
long way from our days unwinding from art history, physics, speech, and
debate—we have suddenly broken tradition by playing only one game since
the summer began.
This wasn’t a premeditated development, to be sure. We
certainly still enjoy playing basketball, and after three school years
spent apart, it’s not that we irrevocably grew apart as friends.
Instead, we’ve simply chosen to reapply our leisure time. Collectively,
we have somehow found ourselves relocated to—dare I say it—more “adult”
venues: bars, other cities, and less familiar blocks within our
sprawling hometown. Unconsciously, we left Kips Bay to embrace the idea
of doing new things with other people: other friends, complete
strangers, and our classmates and roommates from college.
Why? The odds, in a way, were stacked against us from the
start. Outdoor basketball requires sunlight, and too many of us are now
employed, limiting our free time to weekends, if that. Others are
taking summer classes or preparing for graduate school entrance exams.
A couple of weeks ago, Kevin actually tore his MCL in a street fight.
And a few are physically absent, gone to Boston and England. We live in
stark contrast to a time when anyone who dared go on vacation with
their family—leaving the rest of the crew a man down—was publicly
But maybe the bottom line is that our tastes have evolved with
our liberties. Today, in possession of convincing state identification,
we willingly slice hours off of our afternoons and graft them, later
and later, onto our nights. With several driver’s licenses among us—a
rarity among native New Yorkers, I assure you—three of us even drove up
to Massachusetts this past weekend rather than stick around to hoop it
up at home.
Indeed, with every passing weekend and newly aborted game of
three-on-three—complete with the inescapable, increasingly terrifying
conversation about graduation and gainful employment—all signs suggest
that this trend will be a lasting one.
To be honest, I don’t yet know if I like it. Our group has
managed to avoid such negligence for half a decade, even after we
splintered off across the country for college. We did a lot more at the
court than merely play basketball: We relied on it to buffer the
passage of time—to nostalgically quote A. Bartlett Giamatti—to
socialize, and to continually reconnect with our original gang. In the
court’s custody, we went from talking about girlfriends, to eventually
attaining girlfriends, to losing girlfriends, and then back again.
Still, I hesitate to proclaim that our departure from the
playground symbolizes how my friends and I have finally decided to
mature and “grow up.”
That would imply, first of all, that we—well-educated 20 and
21-year-old men—were not grown up to begin with. And secondly, that we
no longer regularly execute “your mom” jokes so ingenious that we run
the constant risk of being head-butted. At least one of those things,
of course, remains dangerously untrue.
But I admit that I can all but feel the drizzle of impending
adulthood. On my walk home from work, after all, it’s hard to ignore
the basketball court that sits quietly downstairs. Vocal in its
silence, a filthy backboard invites more than the hope that the coming
rain won’t wash our scuff marks away.
Pablo S. Torre ’07, a Crimson sports editor, is a sociology
concentrator in Quincy House. He is gainfully employed at Sports
Illustrated this summer, and would even be amenable to playing soccer
thanks to Zinedine Zidane and the 2006 World Cup.