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A SURE SHOT: Doin’ It in the Park

Bobbito Garcia is a man of many titles, DJ, writer and sneaker king among them. As a documentary filmmaker, alongside his co-director, respected photographer Kevin Couliau, together the two have created, “Doin It in the Park”, a film showcasing NYC’s love of the blacktop.

Words: Jessica “Compton” Bennett
Images: Courtesy of Bobbito Garcia, Rey Robles and Hyun Kim

When Biggie spoke of “slingin’ crack rock” or having a “wicked jump shot,” in essence he was explaining how young men from Black and Latino communities make it in this world. It is a hard truth for many, especially for those living in inner city communities where sports and selling drugs are seemingly the most visible and viable means to getting ahead or out of the hood. In recent decades, Rap music has served a similar purpose, but basketball has long been a consistent out. Falling in love with streetball has literally saved lives, generation after generation. And for concrete jungle dwellers, it’s more than just another game of pick-up. Enter Hip-Hop and sports aficionado, DJ, sneaker collector, filmmaker, and all-around legend, Bobbito Garcia. In an interesting deep-dive of the subculture, Garcia and collaborator Kevin Couliau, journey throughout the streets of New York City to unearth where the love story between the hood and basketball began in their documentary, Doin’ It in the Park: Pick-Up Basketball in NYC.

 

While streetball has certainly has traveled beyond the borders of the five boroughs and dominated the globe, the co-directors found it nearly impossible not to lean on New York City as its central theme. Garcia explained during the film’s premiere, “New York City is the mecca of the sport, every kid from Japan to Ghana, to Iran to Bolivia, wants to play ball in New York.” There are more than 500,000 players in the region that hit up over 700 city-wide courts from the summer months of June to August, including the famed West 4th blacktop down in The West Greenwich Village, up to the infamous Rucker Park in Harlem. These courts lure competitors wanting to prove their worth in salt; a past-time that has captured the hearts of numerous players and followers of the sport over the last 62 years. Some have become local legends, while others excelled higher into the upper echelon of Basketball: the NBA. All of this is what Garcia and Couliau effortlessly do their best to convey in their documentary, which moves more like Warriors meets Hoop Dreams.

B-Ball fans will revel in the film’s interviews with street legends like Pee Wee Kirkland and Jack Ryan; NBA Legends like Julius “Dr. J” Erving, and countless other connoisseurs of the game. Part of examining the art of pick-up streetball is shining a light on often overlooked aspects of the culture, such as female ballers and how different pick-up games are in correctional facilities as opposed to the street. Can White boys really jump? What are race relations like on the court? After all the pushing, fighting and screaming in the game, is it really all good when the clock stops? Does calling “next” ever really mean you’re next?

Doin’ It In the Park answers all of these questions, and as Garcia summed it up, “You do not have to be a New Yorker to enjoy this film. We made a specific effort to make it understandable to anyone.” And it’s enjoyable too.

Doin’ It in the Park is currently seeking theatrical release this fall, with a digital release to follow.  The next NYC screening will be held outdoors at MT. Morris/ Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem on August 12. It is free and open for all ages. Showtime is at 7pm. Until then, check their Facebook page for updates.

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