Basketball Is Nothing Without Net

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One of the most gratifying sounds in sports is the buzz of a basketball breaking the net with a perfect rustle.

Take the net and all that remains is the unsatisfying silence of a ball pushing air molecules as it passes through the circle. Did it even pass? Sometimes it’s hard to say.

That’s why Anibal Amador, a 55-year-old former Manhattan real estate agent, regularly breaks into his own pocket to buy brand new nets for playground wheels. The city mostly doesn’t provide nets, but anyone who’s ever played a game of Hustle knows that the quiet hum of a ball being dragged through a netless hoop can turn even the most perfectly executed shot into an airball.

A medium-sized playground next to the entrance to the Queens-Midtown Tunnel at 36th Street, St. “Without the nets, it’s just not good,” said Amador, pointing to one of the circles he surrounded in Vartan Park. “No one would prefer to play that way.”

So, with the help of a ladder he brought from his home, Amador ties the nets to the rims at a few selected playgrounds, where he mostly likes to play, near where he lives in Murray Hill. It adorned the wheels at 36th Street, a playground at East 26th Street, and another near Bellevue Hospital. He says he has been doing this job for about three years.

Amador’s petty civic gesture is one of many small acts of altruism that tends to go unnoticed that helps maintain a small quality of life in a crowded city where playground basketball mythology is a matter of urban lore.

Recently, St. A group of players at Vartan’s Park, carefully balancing on their ladder, waited patiently while Amador finished attaching the nets to the clips under the rims before wiping the backing with a cloth.

They applauded when he finished.

“Much better for anyone with a net,” Amador said with a big smile.

The New York City Department of Parks has 1,800 ballparks around five boroughs where some of the best games in history have been played without a single fan watching. This does not even take into account schoolyards maintained by the department of education and individual schools, or courts overseen by the New York City Housing Authority.

At the height of the coronavirus pandemic, the city demolished more than 2,100 neighborhoods around the city to discourage people from getting together in groups. A Park Department spokesperson said all wheels from April to July 2020 have been returned. But in all parks it is not possible to keep nets on all wheels, so it can not even be called a city. The wear, dismantling and vandalism is just too much to keep up with.

“I see,” said Amador, “because there are so many parks all over the place that they will always have to network. That’s where I come in.”

Originally from Rio Piedras in Puerto Rico, Amador moved to New York 27 years ago and worked in real estate until recently. He wants to dive into something else, but in the meantime he plays basketball two or three times a week and changes nets as needed on his favorite courts about every nine weeks.

“The amount of play these parks get is staggering,” he said. “Too much and the networks don’t really hold up.”

Across the city, some wheels pop into the undecorated space with twine. Some have networks, whether bought and connected by civics like Amador, or provided by a school, a generous PE teacher, or some other anonymous donor.

An unscientific study of a handful of urban playgrounds revealed an arbitrary pattern of networks: Some courts have it, some don’t.

There was no net at the Northern Playground in Jackson Heights, Queens. But in the corner of Louis Armstrong Middle School, pristine white nets hung from bright orange frames that jutted out from transparent backs.

At the legendary Holcombe Rucker Park at 155th Street and Frederick Douglas Avenue in Manhattan, there was a solid white net on one side, but at the other end of the court, the messy, frayed remnant of a net that hung sadly below, awaiting a timely replacement. there was. for the world famous summer league there.

In the Bronx, at the corner of 167th Street and Southern Boulevard, 50-year-old Clarence Williams showcased his sweet jump shot at Field Of Dreams Park, where the field surface was smooth and well-painted but the rims were bare.

“It doesn’t bother me,” Williams said. “There’s a park with nets a few blocks away. If I really need them, I can go there. But come on, you can tell if the ball went in.”

A little further south, St. Mary’s Park had nets on several glittering courts with sharp lines and solid backs. Others didn’t.

But St. At Vartan’s Park, Amador made sure every good shot was a jump from the furry nets he bought online for about $10. Last month, when he set up those networks, one of the regular players gave Amador $20 to cover the costs.

Asking if his name is just Nathan because he sometimes plays during office hours, the actor was surprised that someone would show his money and time so generously.

“I thought you worked for the city,” Nathan said. “He was very meticulous. Then he took out a long brush and wiped the backing. I’ve never seen this before.”

Amador says he enjoys serving because he loves basketball and smiles when asked if he has a nickname.

“Maybe I was thinking of The Net Changer,” he said.

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