The Digital NBA

December 01, 2016 Sammy Gunnell

NYC has a history of producing gifted and gritty basketball players, point guards specifically. Some have graced NBA courts and seen their names etched in history books, others have remained urban legends in a city where the competition has been as fierce as the courts are overcrowded. This has apparently subsided in the last few years.

I heard an NYC playground legend blame the quietness of the courts and the decline in consistency coming from the five boroughs, on kids playing video games at home, rather than hitting the courts. 

I live in London now, but grew up in another part of the UK, Birmingham. This is Britain's second largest city but still dwarfed by the capital. I grew up knowing nothing about Basketball, my dad was an avid football (soccer) fan and I enjoyed watching our local team play and enjoy some success in the early 90s. My first glimpse of Basketball was on a friend's birthday trip to a local bowling alley, there was an arcade there which had a game called NBA JAM. I became obsessed, literally!

My education of the game came from NBA videos, Panini sticker books and not least... NBA video games. I was soon taking weekly Saturday morning trips to my local second hand shops to see if there might just be any Basketball games in stock for my Sega Megadrive (Genesis in the States). NBA JAM, NBA Live 95, David Robinson's Supreme Court, Bulls vs Blazers and so on and so on. I learned rules, teams, rosters, superstars, moves, set plays, I learned to love the game of basketball in an era where the internet was inaccessible and almost nothing NBA related was shown on British television. This spurred me on to play for a local team and to practice avidly in my parents back garden. It was video games that got me into the game, not out of it.

In the last few years, the NBA 2K series have dominated the video game world. It's become a best seller for guys who wouldn't otherwise enjoy basketball, and taught many who hadn't even considered the game, to explore it. I'm blessed to have a job where I get to work with teenagers and specifically young men, and I have seen an increase of guys hitting the courts and kids following the sport since the success of the NBA 2K series.

Don't get me wrong, sitting indoors all day and being hooked on video games is never a good thing. But ironically, video games may be just the thing which gets kids back on the courts again, it's beginning to here in the UK, and I hope it will in NYC too.



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