"Boys are playing basketball around a telephone pole with a backboard bolted to it. Legs, shouts. The scrape and snap of Keds on loose alley pebbles seem to catapult their voices high into the moist March air." Novelist John Updike's aging Rabbit Angstrom spoke the words. Photographer Walter Iooss Jr. set out to capture them, not only in his native New Jersey, but in Venice, Calif. (right) and suburbs and city streets where bright careers blossom first in the asphalt jungle.
Schoolyard basketball or street ball or playground ball-no matter the name-is a "terrific dream game," Iooss found, "a fantasy, an addiction." In New York, as elsewhere, kids play it anytime, regardless of conditions. It is enough to gaze on the wondrous sight of a swish, or to dribble down a sidewalk past brownstones and garbage, or just to rest after some two-on-two.
He is Walt Frazier or Jerry West, the future pro. But more than that, just lunging for a loose ball can be a marvelous act of desire, done over fallen leaves or on a court cleared of snow or in the summer when the city sizzles. A fast break is a boy's passion, and it is his training for the years ahead.
It seems almost too early, but already Florida boys barely in their teens know the moves. Their court is grass and the time is May. Later in the summer an older player, a veteran in New Jersey, starts wearily for home in the sunset. For him, for all the others, when play is done, there are always these: the shot, the pass, the moment to remember.
February 21, 1972
Some kid's game began here at a tarred telephone pole in Newport, R.I. It may not have ended yet.