Photography by Kevin Couliau
For those who have crashed their skulls against poles, chain link fences, and concrete after taking it to the butter, and have gotten up and kept playing
For those who have scraped open their elbows or palms after falling from trying to cook their defender with some freak disco
For those who have had their hands so dirty they had to wash them with Ajax
For those who have sweated in the sun so much in one day that their faces were crusted with dried salt
For those who have played on concrete so many years they can put their hands on top of their kneecaps and feel their bones chiseling against each other
For those who have felt the sting of acid from peeling an orange because their fingertips have open wounds from slapping boards too much
For those who have seen blood on their socks from playing too much D on the asphalt
For those who have never had a tan below their sock-line because they don't know what it is to be outdoors and not be playing ball
For those who played with rubber balls with bubbles in them
For those who played with leather balls outdoors until they became suede and light enough to be taken off by a summer breeze
For those who have had their ball vicked from them, or lent out at the end of the day and never returned
For those who have taken more jump shots on rims without nets than with
For those who have played on low rims, biddy rims, bent rims, hanging-for-dear-life-on-one-remaining-bolt rims
For those who didn't have rims, who have shot on the bottom step of a fire-escape ladder or bottomless milk crate, or empty trash can
For those who took wire hangers and formed rims with them behind their bedroom doors and practiced hanking it with tennis balls
For those who know what a base line looks like with the sun rising behind it at 6am, or what a backboard looks like when it's faintly illuminated only by the sun that's reflecting off the moon and the distant lamp post light at 1am.
For those who have shoveled snow and shot foul shots with gloves on afterwards, or who know that a court can be as slippery as an ice skating rink when it's raining outside
For those who know what cracked concrete looks like, on a court that's unleveled, with foul lines that haven't been repainted in a decade
For those who have removed broken bottle glass off of the bottoms of their sneakers, or little pebbles and sand out of their socks
For those who have picked up bums or homeless persons from the side just so they could have ten for a full
For those who have played 21 (with nine players or more), Utah, Knock Out, Booty's Up, One on One for money, 2s, 3s, Roughhouse, Around the World, 5-2, 50, 7, H-O-R-S-E, and Taps
For those who have waited five games or more for next, or have gotten their next Bogarted from them
For those who have gotten their money stolen out their pants that were left on the side while playing
For those who rode a fix, going borough to borough looking for a run, playing with ankle weights on not knowing how they were destroying their knees
For those who wore summer tournament shirts with numbers written in magic marker, or felt iron-numbers numbers fresh off the press at the corner Army & Navy
For those who know the smell of a new tournament shirt on the first day of the summer season, and how the shirts stick to each other when you're trying to pick out your favorite number
For those who know plastic scoreboards with flip up numbers better than electronic scoreboards, or who don't know what it's like to look up and know how much time is left in a game
For those who played in tournaments that didn't last, like the Central Park Tournament, RYA, Goddard Riverside, Boys of Yesteryear, Whitney M. Young, Chick's All Stars, Elmcor, Dunk If You Dare, Brookville Park, Big Vic's 6" and Under, and King Towers
For those who hang-dried their tournament shirts so the print wouldn't crack
For every biddie, midget, junior, senior, unlimited, and pro player who has ever played in the Holcombe Rucker Memorial
For Holcombe Rucker, "The Rab", "The Goat", "Spanish Doc", "McNasty", "Soul Man", "Pookie" Wilson, and any other playground legend who is no longer with us
For every playground from Coney Island to Caton Park, from Tillary to Tompkins Square, From Horatio St. to Mullaley, from Nelson Park to West 4th in The Vernon
For those who know the Playground, that playground is you.
You can play high school or college for four years.
You can play Pro for a decade.
You can play playground basketball for life.
It is the only constant in a true ballplayer's heart, the highest truth in ball period. For those who know, they know this well.