A basketball in hand, the hoop in my sight, and the breeze of the day to carry me forward. Call it “The beauty of the outdoor basketball court”. You know that feeling when you shoot the ball and hear the “swish!” sound repeatedly? It truly is second to none, isn’t it? (first is hearing the same sound in NBA 2K). You feel like your favourite player on the outside court, you know, the Steph Currys, Lebron James, maybe even a Giannis for you lanky athletic people out there. When we are outside we have the complete freedom to leave out all there on the court (literally) time and time again.
What I have learned from the outside courts can be transferable anywhere in life, but ultimately, it’s a place for fun, excitement, and sweat (a lot of sweat, a towel is strongly advised). Now read along while dribbling a basketball with me to see how the outdoor court has benefited me and how it can do the same for you.
The courts outside are unforgiving. Warriors (no, not Golden State) are made here. If you can’t handle the outside scene, the gym will not be the smoothest of transitions. Firstly, the concrete is beyond tough, with cuts and bruises on the body likely to happen overtime. Please do not think anyone playing pick up basketball will offer you a band-aid. Everyone is here to ball for bragging rights and physical activity. Your best bet is to sprinkle some water on it and act as if nothing happened. Guts and perseverance are born here and you’ll last a lot longer on the court if you just brush off the blood and keep going. A little blood on the leg doesn’t hurt anybody right?
The runs of 3v3, 4v4, and 5v5 taught me how important cardio is. Do you know how many times I would have to outrun a 30-year-old male who relies on their hustle and his big body to overpower me? Unbelievable. These runs continuously teach me how valuable mental toughness is. Everyone is talking smack to each other. Someone is complaining about a missed foul call. Someone is complaining about having no help on defense. You hear it all here and if you can’t handle it, you won’t last very long. But outdoor courts showed me how fast you must toughen up everything about you if you want to survive just one game. You still have fun at the end of the day… even if you shed a few tears walking home.
My competitive nature was born on an outside basketball court. Running after a rebound, seeing the blood, sweat, and tears (literally) of what I was working towards was humbling but lit the much-needed fire of my competitive nature. Day in and day out for summer vacations, I would wake up, pack my water, and go to the court to get shots up. The work I put in could never be taken away from me. Even if no one is watching, I know what I did to improve in every single way.
The control aspect of outside is determined by me and I couldn’t have asked of it in a better way. I decide when to get to the court. I decide what to work on specifically (floaters, post moves, off the dribble mid-range shot). I decide how tired on want to be by the end of it all. We have all the control we need here to keep getting better. I can push myself to the limit every single time and the glory of it all, there’s barely any restrictions on time (besides my mother yelling for me to come home for dinner).
Competing with yourself will bring out how much you want it. If you put in the work and show yourself how good you can become with constant practice, you’ll be surprised by what you can accomplish. And when it is time to play within a team, that same nature will help you ball out and show everyone else what you are capable of.
The outdoors is free, there’s no time restriction of when to leave and nobody has full ownership of the court (other than you know, the city who owns it). We must be willing to make the effort to go there and just play.
Playing outside has been an ideal experience, showing how simplicity can bring out the inner joy inside of me. Besides the basic benefits of staying healthy, cardio, etc., the outdoor basketball court has blessed me with a mixture of joy, rage, and laughter. A blend of emotions that always has me coming back for more. So why not play outdoors? It’s one of the best ways of spending your leisure time (other than playing MyCareer in 2k and averaging 30 points a game of course). So please if there’s one thing to take away from this article, is to never stop shooting your shot, especially on the outside court.
Article by Michael Okunola (@timelessthoughts.ca), who started hooping at age 8 and still shooting (and now writing) at 20. Photos above are of my local court in Ontario, Canada.