The Baseball Road Trip—it falls somewhere between a picnic by the river and Paris (in the rain) in the 1920s on the list Overly Romanticized Things. About it books have been written and movies made. People do crazy things to visit The Cathedrals of America’s Pastime. Like spend 30 days in a car. Or visit Cleveland.
But what about basketball? Well, let’s just say people aren’t exactly bouncing on the devil and putting the metal to the floor to get to Quicken Loans Arena. It makes some sense. How different can one 94 x 50 slab of wood be from the next? And setting out for a new city sounds a lot less fun when it’s snowing.
But what about the summer, a time when sunshine, local flavor, and basketball can blend together as smoothly as the Spurs’ offense? Maybe it’s time to give a basketball road trip a shot.
For those looking for an excuse to catch some hoops after the NBA Finals, here are seven summer leagues—each with their own quirks—worth checking out this summer.
San Francisco Pro Am, San Francisco
OK, I know sunshine was promised in the intro. The games at the San Francisco Pro Am are held indoors, but you might not mind so much when you check out Kezar Pavilion. The 4,000-seat arena opened in 1924 and certainly shows every one of its 90 years. But if the chance to live in a Hoosiers’ fantasy world isn’t enough to get you to the Bay then maybe the talent will. In past years, Matt Barnes, Aaron Gordon, Tyreke Evans, and Jeremy Lin have all played. This year’s games start June 16.
Seattle Pro Am, Seattle
With the Sonics’ potential savior off rescuing another franchise, it seems Seattle will have to get used to life on the outside of the NBA. The Seattle Pro Am may feel like a crummy consolation prize, but, as far as such prizes go, this is the silver medal. Try watching these highlights from last summer and see if you don’t forget—at least for a few moments—that the NBA ever left. Last year Jamal Crawford, Blake Griffin, Kevin Durant, Isaiah Thomas, Jeff Green, Kevin Durant, and Kyrie Irving all made appearances. But as Seattle Times columnist Jerry Brewer wrote last year, the Seattle Pro Am is more about the basketball than the stars. “If you love basketball, you could be in for a random treat,” Brewer wrote. “If you love events, well, this isn’t for you.” The 2014 season starts up July 5.
The Drew League, Los Angeles
For the West Coast’s best summer ball, check out LA’s Drew League. From Andre Miller to Nick Young, the list of NBA players who have suited up in South Central goes on and on. But it’s not just NBA stars who show up. LA rappers Nipsey Hussle and The Game have already stopped by this summer. And if that’s not enticing enough, what about a chance to see Baron Davis in action again? He may be out of the NBA, but Davis reportedly dropped 31 at the Drew League just the other week.
Nike Pro City Basketball, New York City
On Tuesday and Thursday nights, stop by Baruch College on 24th and Lexington. You have to descend a few flights of stairs to reach the gym, which gives the league a bit of a Fight Club feel—a feeling that’s only heightened when guys with nicknames like Hard Knock Life start dunking on people. The league may not have the same sex appeal as others in in NYC (more to come) but the action is still top notch. In the past, Kevin Durant has shown up and Kyrie Irving and Nate Robinson have gone head-to-head.
The Dyckman Basketball Tournament, New York City
Make sure you show up early if you want to catch a game at Dyckman Park on 204th Street and Nagle Ave. These games get so packed the crowd literally spills onto the court. If you manage to get a spot, though, chances are you won’t be disappointed. This is streetball at its purest with games played under the lights in the open air. It’s no surprise then that capacity crowds have come to watch the likes of Kemba Walker, Lance Stephenson, and other New Yorkers who have made it on the big stage. The 2014 season opener was postponed because of rain, but the league should be starting up any day.
EBC at Rucker Park, New York City
When it comes to the history and star power, it’s impossible to find a venue that rivals Harlem’s Rucker Park. The court on 155th Street has hosted the likes of Wilt, Kareem, and Dr. J; the league has its roots in a New York City hip-hop feud; and the city’s top local players still show up each summer.
If that’s not enough to get you out, how about the chance to check out a team coached by French Montana that features Brooklyn’s own Chaz Williams, the 5-9 point guard with the athleticism and swagger to pull off moves like this. The 2014 season gets underway June 16.
The Goodman League, Washington, D.C.
It may not have the energy of New York City or the glamour of Los Angeles, but D.C. is right at the top when it comes to the country’s best summer hoops. Since 1975, D.C.’s top talent has played in the Goodman League on the fenced-in court at Barry Farm. The league has featured its share of NBA stars (Gilbert Arenas and Kevin Durant come to mind), but streetball legends still run the show. Last year, for instance, Warren “D-Nice” Jefferson—deemed a “Goodman League Legend”—took home the MVP award. This year’s action is already underway.