I didn’t grow up playing basketball; up until age 10 I hated the sport. But my dad made me play in a league for a couple years and at first I was just awful, as every beginner is. But I was really bad. I got some slack for it because I was still younger though. After playing for a couple years I got better and by high school, I was decent and could play in the leagues without getting destroyed. I was no superstar, but I wasn’t the bench warmer either.

But organized basketball is nothing like the culture of street ball. Yes both are forms of the sport, but street ball is a whole new mindset and I would learn that the hard way. If you’re bad, you get called out for it. There are no teammates there to pick you up; you have to pull yourself up. So my first times playing at the parks didn’t go so well. I got called out. I played my one game, lost with my team, and wouldn’t get picked to play again. I wasn’t used to the attitude you have to have and it didn’t help me that I was Chinese. The stereotype is that Chinese people, except Yao Ming, can’t play basketball.

What shocked me was that as I got better at the parks, I picked up some of the culture from the park as well. The way the other players talked and acted at the park stuck with me, and I subconsciously do it now when I play ball. It’s as if the court has some line, and once I cross it and get the ball, everything changes. What would be an off-court “Hey, how’s it going?” became a “yo, wassup?” My walk turns into this stupid strut, and I just turn bolder. Guys at the park are bigger than me usually but if they start talking trash, they get it right back. Any other time I’d shut my mouth because I don’t want to start anything. But on the court its “oh, no shot” or “he’s little, he’s a baby” when he is clearly bigger than me. It gets me by on the courts, but once I step off, that transformation ends and I go back to the quiet and reserved person I normally am. It shocks me every time and after I get home and think about it, I always ask, “What was I doing…I need to shut up next time.” But I never do.

You need an attitude to survive at the parks, and I learned that after sitting down for countless games. But once you get decent and can play, you get respected and all the trash talk becomes part of the culture. The names, insults, everything is just part of the game and it drives you to want to embarrass the other team by winning. Sometimes I get called “Chinatown” at the parks, but to me, its not a racial thing, its just me showing that Chinese guys can play basketball, and its part of the street ball culture I’ve adapted to.

Streetball (Notice the lack of Asians playing)
Credits to

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4 Responses to Streetball

  1. Joseph Maugeri says:

    I think this concept can relate to other sports as well. Throwing a ball around the park with a couple of friends can turn deadly when there is 10 or more people. There is the occasional concussion but it’s usually by accident. It is almost like ‘mob mentality’ breaks out and people forget that it is a simple game. The competitive edge of our personalities bust through even the quietest of guys. It is pretty interesting to watch.

  2. John Scanlon says:

    Similar to your situation, I never really played basketball during the earlier years of my life. It was not until high school that I began going to my neighborhood park with my friends to participate in “pick-up” games. For quite a while, I had the reputation as the kid who was afraid to “drive to the hoop,” and as a result, I did not get much playing time. Over time, I eventually got better and was able to back up my play on the court. I agree that you get used to this different “culture” when you step onto the court; It becomes almost second nature. Just like any game of street ball, a large amount of trash talking takes place, and the name of the game has become “Who can get more inside their opponents head?”

  3. Nancy Zhu says:

    What you said about organized basketball is nothing like street ball is so true. Without a referee and completely settled between you and your opponents, street ball can get pretty rough. For one, there is no foul called in street ball. Though I’m a girl, and girls normally don’t play as rough as the guys do, I can see it in the competitiveness when I watch my guy friends play.

  4. isabelzhao says:

    I agree with everything you said. This doesn’t only apply to street basketball but is the same for basically any sport in a local park. I’ve seen a fight start because someone was accidentally hit by a ball that flew from the other side of the field. It seems very ridiculous but it’s really inevitable especially if, like Nancy said, there are no referees and it is very unorganized. I would definitely say that playing in those environments would really require a lot of attitude. If not, I can’t imagine how’d you be treated by the others!

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