Celebrities, pro athletes and local gang members hit the basketball court on Saturday for the fifth annual Peace Basketball Tournament at St. Sabina Church in the city’s Gresham neighborhood.
The tournament aims to promote peace over gun violence, said Fr. Michael Pfleger, of St. Sabina.
On Saturday, neighborhood rivals were teammates. Players included rival gang members of five neighborhood factions.
“Basketball’s a hook, basketball is a relationship builder, but it’s bigger than basketball. It’s about jobs. It’s about education,” Pfleger said.
Among the luminaries at the tournament was ‘Chiraq’ director Spike Lee, retired NBA players Mark Anthony Aguirre and Isaiah Thomas.
Teens and young men made up the opposing teams.
“If you see somebody in the ‘hood, give ’em a pass. If you can give them a pass on the court, you can get them on the streets,” one player told the group.
The tournament comes as gang and gun violence continues to plague the city.
Chicago native and Milwaukee Bucks player Jabari Parker was one of Saturday’s volunteers and even played in the game.
“A little bit makes a difference. Three hours is a lot to do something positive. It’s three hours away from crime. Three hours away from un-productivity,” Parker said.
Organizers hope that finding common ground on the basketball court could spark change in the streets.
“We’ve got to get the city back. We’ve got to get the city back right and this peace tournament is going to do it,” player Nikko Robertson said.
Not long ago, gym floor specialists were known mainly for their ability to travel long distances to a job, use their riding sanders to sand vast expanses of maple, paint their lines and walk miles back and forth to get finish on the floor. It wasn’t a niche involving much creativity or imagination, and, except for painting the lines, it didn’t require much finesse, either.
Times have changed. While coating gyms still involves a lot of walking, what happens before that final coat could hardly be called boring. Today’s basketball courts are in-your-face, with huge logos and other wild graphics that are all about branding. Many people date this trend to the University of Oregon floor that debuted in 2010 (more on that in the sidebar “Into the Woods” below), with its forest of tall fir trees that broke the mold of traditional floors and even led to rule changes in the NCAA.
The effects have been far-reaching. While many NBA floors remain tame in comparison, NCAA floors seem to compete to outdo each other, and high schools and even junior highs and grade schools are catching on to the trend. How do wood floor pros execute the crazy designs? HF talked to some gym floor specialists to find out.