South Philly hoops
Slam magazine’s Aggrey Sam has just published an article based on a conversation with Scott N. Brooks about his fascinating new book about Philly’s basketball scene in Black Men Can’t Shoot. As Sam notes, Brooks’ book is based on the author’s “firsthand experiences as a coach for the South Philly in the vaunted Sonny Hill League, mainly through his relationship with two up-and-coming stars in the city,” “Jermaine” and “Ray” (not their real names). Brooks’ narrative follows these young athletes as they navigate Philly’s hyper-competitive basketball circuit—where dreams are made and broken on a daily basis—and many an NBA hopeful must learn not only to manage their game on the court, but to deal with the social and economic obstacles to their success as well. As Sam explains:
It seems pretty simple sometimes—the best players get the most shine. If you’re good and you work hard at your craft, you’ll get what’s coming to you. But with all the pitfalls along the way and the “business of basketball” trickling down to the grassroots level over the years, it’s a lot more complicated than that.
Sam’s article goes on to discuss the network of “Old Heads”—neighborhood mentors that help guide young athletes—sometimes for better, sometimes for worse—the broader communal structure of grassroots Philly hoops, and the continual “process of making and re-making” oneself that these athletes must endure with each stage of their career if they wish to make it to the top.
Read the complete article on the Slam magazine website. Also, read an excerpt from Black Men Can’t Shoot.