“Basketball has captured the Black imagination in a way no other sport can quite replicate”, writes Damani McNeil in the afterword to Ari Marcopoulos’ new book, which captures six summers of the tournament held every year in honour of Conrad McRae, a young promise of American basketball, killed by a heart attack in 2000 during a training session.
Marcopoulos presents the different teams one at a time in a serial game of endless repetitions, which change only for small body attitudes of the subjects. The walls, on the other hand, which are the background, remain the same for entire sections of the book, as if to underline the inexorability of a social destiny, which however much you may move, change position, struggle, will remain there, to remind you if not where you are going at least where you are coming from.
It is only during the games of the tournament, played on the neighborhood court, that the frame widens, mercilessly.
In the United States basketball is a very popular sport, and it is interesting to note that 80% of NBA players are black and most white players were born in Europe.
At a time when black people are constantly at risk of being shot in the street, it is not hard to believe that children dream of becoming NBA or WNBA players like Natasha Howard, Lebron James or Giannis Antetokoumpo.
Marcopoulos’ portraits immediately recall the harshness and pride that the children show, but they also reveal the deep camaraderie they share in the pursuit of a common goal.
Sport is one of the few areas in the lives of African American children where they are taught to embrace the power of their creativity to imagine a future they cannot see yet.