Columnist’s note: The last article in this mini-series delved into what the beginning of spring means for the Red Sox vs. Yankees rivalry. This week tackles another New York-versus-Boston dichotomy but in regards to the hardwood.
We should turn our attention on this winter and spring juncture to explore another cleavage between everyone’s favorite two northeastern pillars — New York and Boston, of course. Even if it doesn’t seem like it at Tufts, the machinations of spring have, well, sprung, evidenced by both the vigorously chirping birds and the sudden realization that spring break is only 10 days away.
My faded and jaded memories of Harleston Hall last year include the sound of the dribbling of basketballs littering the late afternoons in the springtime. The constant bouncing would manage to emanate through my shut window, and I would get the sudden urge to venture outside. You would run into an eclectic mix of downhill first-years, off-campus seniors and the local Somerville entourage.
These days, a blacktop in springtime often operates as the fulcrum of various communities. It’s the same fulcrum in Brooklyn as it is in Brookline. Courts are lined with slightly peeled cement, nets that have been mostly cut and a faint pastel-tinge that makes everything seem like you’re in the early ’70s.
Dozens of characters have graced these courts, some whose stories are more famous than others. Carmelo Anthony’s childhood apartment in Red Hook (learn your Brooklyn neighborhoods, everyone!) also overlooked a basketball court, though his hoop dreams lasted a bit longer than mine did. Julius Erving brought his high-flying dunk show from Long Island to Rucker Park, a Harlem classic (learn your Manhattan neighborhoods, too, though Harlem should be ubiquitously iconic) in every sense of the word. Not to be a footnote, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar plied his high school trade in the City, too.
A pair of heavyweight NBA free-agents also have direct ties to the New York City basketball scene. Kemba Walker, forever immortalized in Madison Square Garden lore (Cardiac Kemba!), could once again grace the New York hardwood and maybe even share a backcourt with Kyrie Irving, who hails from nearby New Jersey.
Of course, that drives Boston acrimony into the conversation. Here’s some more: The immortalizing image of Boston hoops to me is the fight scene in “Good Will Hunting” (1997) where Matt Damon utters, “Come on it’s me, Will, we went to kindergarten together,” before laying the hammer down on a fellow townie. However, for what the city may lack in brand names (and in this department it certainly does), it certainly doesn’t in clear identity. New York has one too, even sometimes when it has to reach a little bit by casting a young Ray Allen as Jesus Shuttlesworth to pair next to Denzel Washington in “He Got Game” (1998).
The psyches of both hoop cultures are aptly intertwined with the cities they represent. As a fan of good basketball and nice weather, I’m glad I’ve tasted both.