What Creative Communities Can Learn From Pickup Basketball
MIKE O'DONNELL / EDITOR
The worlds of arts and sports are in constant conversation. Many artists in our community have a foot in both, often producing sports-inspired projects. And a simple glance at the lines, materials, and equipment that define each and every sport displays the sheer force that design holds over the sports world. WNW Member Kasper Nyman's ongoing project Cities of Basketball directs a seemingly straightforward conversation between public basketball courts and design, but there's much more at work underneath the surface. We talk to the Copenhagen-based creative about his passion for pickup basketball, how design informs the sport and setting, and what creative communities like Working Not Working can learn from the inherent community aspect of pickup basketball culture.
Tell us a little about your creative background. Who is Kasper Nyman and how did he get here?
My education is in graphic design. But I got hooked into motion graphics and art direction because it is a way of working visually, experiencing a global market, and creating something extraordinary in an ordinary world. In 2012 after 8 years full-time in various agencies, I decided to seek new challenges and felt that the freelance lifestyle was right for me. One thing that has always been a constant itch is trying new ways to be creative. Most have driven my parents crazy at times, with all my mad projects as a kid, but I have always been supported and am truly grateful for that.
I’m a strong believer that you shine the most when doing something you're passionate about. When you play harder, you evolve and keep your joy for the craft.
How long have you been playing basketball? What position do you play?
I started playing organized basketball around the age of 15 or 16. But I became an instant fan of basketball February 7th, 1997 - the day Space Jam came out. My position is Shooting Guard.
What lead you to start documenting basketball courts on your travels?
I love traveling, meeting new people and exploring the world we live in. But the documenting of basketball playgrounds sprung from wanting to evolve creatively and find something that gave a stress relief.
How does your basketball background and passion for it inform your creative process and output?
It gives me a drive and a mindset that the 4th quarter is the part of a creative process where you can evolve.
How would you describe the language of basketball?
You spend so many hours together with your teammates over an entire season, on and off the court. You create bonds, friendships, and memories that will last a lifetime, and that is when basketball is bigger than just a game.
How would you describe the culture of pickup basketball to those who are uninitiated?
It's the coolest thing ever. Just lace up your kicks, find a playground, and ask "who got next?" It’s a culture that brings together people; you’re always welcome at the black tops. I’ve experienced first-hand numerous times around the world that I might not speak the native tongue or come from the same culture, but when it comes to playing pick-up basketball, we speak the same language.
Do you research courts before you visit a city? And do you always pack your kicks?
Friendships, connections, and Google are my triangle offense. Of course I always bring my kicks. A good way to explore cultures is to actually be a part of it, and by playing pick-up basketball you meet people and experience their passion for the game too.
You tend to document unoccupied basketball courts. Is there a particular reason you focus more on the stage itself as opposed to the rotating cast of characters?
It’s the straight lines, the balance of the image, the composition of the playground, the calm before the storm. That one object and place have experienced so many wins and losses.
What sort of technology would you like to see to make the pickup basketball scene even more efficient? Or is the unrehearsed and almost inevitable way that 10 people show up to the same court essential to the magic?
In my mind, pick-up basketball is already efficient. Just ask a local basketball player, I guarantee he or she knows the best playground to play good competitive pick-up basketball. If the weather is right, you can always count on hoopers being present on the playgrounds.
What 5 basketball courts that you’ve visited have been the most impressive, concerning design and placement?
Well, Pigalle playground in Paris. They just re-designed it for their new NIKE collab. I’m going be in Paris working next week, so hopefully I have time to swing by and update my photos of that spot. San Francisco has one on the roof of Cameron House in Chinatown. The playground has been in movies like The Pursuit of Happiness and has been in numerous commercials for brands like NIKE and Under Armour. Angel Park in Los Angeles is not in the best condition, but the view and setting are top notch. Hong Kong has one on top of a parking lot, which you may have seen on social media because of the scenery of the pastel colored building complexes surrounding the playground. Portland Oregon, my second home, has a court inside a park surrounded by nature. I just love that place. Reminds me of my childhood home, and the hoop I had in the backyard of my parents' place. We even have it as a big print in our living room.
What can creative communities like WNW learn from the inherent community that comes with pickup basketball culture?
I wanted to say something philosophically, and sound all smart. But what the pick-up basketball culture lives on is striving for wins. The drive to compete and overcome an obstacle to put the ball into the basket. And if you take an L, come back the next day and compete for that W.
How are your knees and ankles holding up?
Still working and ready to get buckets.
Anything else you’d like to add?
If you have not seen the classic movie White Men Can’t Jump, you got homework.