While the NBA Finals are taking place far from New York City, there's no shortage of basketball in the five boroughs. In fact, NYC's outdoor courts will host games all summer long, and there's plenty of reason for visitors to check them out. The City's blacktop has seen the likes of Anthony Mason, Julius Erving and Kemba Walker—NYC streetball legend Ed “Booger” Smith even once appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated, though he sadly never did reach the NBA. And if your budget can't sustain the cost of courtside seats for the Knicks, Nets or Liberty, you're in luck: the four leagues listed below all cost nothing to watch.
Top Streetball Leagues:
West 4th Street Courts (Greenwich Village)
The basketball court at West 4th Street Courts is known as “The Cage,” because its trademark high fence boxes players into much-smaller-than-regulation dimensions. The league here draws huge crowds, who take up the few folding chairs by the court and line the surrounding sidewalks to watch. Anthony Mason and Mario Elie plied their trade here before hitting it big in the NBA (and it was Ed “Booger” Smith's home court, too).
Schedule (regular season begins on May 26 and runs through July 24; details available on the league's Facebook page):
Monday–Friday (except July 4): 6pm
Saturday–Sunday: 3pm, 4:30pm & 6pm
All-star games and slam-dunk contest: July 25
Holcombe Rucker Park (Harlem)
Named for Holcombe Rucker, the Harlem teacher who first started a basketball tournament here in 1950, this court has seen some huge names in its time—Julius Irving and Wilt Chamberlain among them—and still showcases big-time talent during the Entertainers Basketball Classic.
Schedule (regular season begins on June 15; details available at ebcruckerpark.com):
Monsignor Kett Playground, Dyckman Park (Washington Heights)
College stars who've recently played at Dyckman Park include Jordan Theodore of Seton Hall and the unstoppable Kemba Walker of UConn. In past seasons, Kevin Durant and Michael Beasley have even turned up.
Schedule (season starts June 15; details available at dyckmanbasketball.com):
Game times TBA
Orchard Beach (Bronx)
The courts at Orchard Beach, in Pelham Bay Park, have hosted Tracy McGrady, Ron Artest and some of NYC's best local stars during the Hoops in the Sun tournament.
Schedule (Regular season begins on June 6 and runs through August 2. Playoffs August 7–9; details available at hoopsinthesun.net):
Games on Saturday and Sunday afternoons starting at noon or 1pm
Ball Up Million Dollar Summer Challenge (Manhattan)
Though this tournament takes place indoors at John Jay College, we're listing it for a few reasons: (1) admission is free; (2) organizers have recruited players from NYC's streetball courts; and (3) there’s a $500,000 prize for the national champion, so competition is likely to be fierce.
Schedule (details available at ballupmdsc.com):
Various dates through July 19: 6–9pm