simple is beautiful
New York Daily Photo: The Cage
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Wednesday, 16 May 2007

The Cage

This may not look like much, but this ramshackle affair is one of the world's most well-known streetball courts, with some of the finest play in the country. Officially the West 4th Street Courts, commonly The Cage. It is sandwiched between the entrance to the W. 4th street subway station (one of the city's largest), Avenue of the Americas a.k.a. 6th Ave. (one of the city's busiest streets), West 3rd and 4th Streets, playgrounds and handball courts. There is no seating for spectators - onlookers press up against the fence, dodging pedestrian traffic and jockeying for good viewing. The court is smaller than regulation size, so the the action is faster with lots of tough, physical play ("banging"), sometimes resembling urban wrestling more than basketball. The entire court is surrounded by a 20-foot-high chain-link fence - hence the term cage (cage configurations are not unusual in many large cities). Many professional players have cut their teeth here; scouts are frequently on site prospecting for talent. The West 4th Street League that plays there was founded in 1977 by Kenny Graham, a limousine driver. There is a summer tournament, drawing 100,000 visitors from around the world. Prior to 1935, the area was vacant land; from 1935 to 1953 it was a small city park with swings, slides and a bocce court. In 1953 it was taken over by the parks department and in the 1950s it was paved and basketball hoops were added. I am not a sports or basketball fan, but the fast games with constant action are quintessential NYC. And the banter between players is some of the best sarcasm and comedy I have heard. The Cage has been featured in films and TV commercials. A book was written: Inside the Cage: A Season at West 4th Street's Legendary Tournament. Do you want a slice of real, classic NYC - gritty, harsh, fast, in-your-face? Visit the the Cage, watch a game and listen ...


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