Address: 7201 East Green Lake Dr N, Seattle, WA 98115

Green Lake in Seattle is easily the most recognizable outdoor basketball court in the Pacific Northwest.

In Chris Ballard’s definitive guide to pick-up ball, Hoops Nation, Ballard compares Green Lake to the Venice Beach courts – The court has enough notoriety that it was featured in NBA Street Vol. 2, alongside landmarks like Rucker and Mosswood Park.

But, reputation aside, the actual run at Green Lake is hot garbage. If the court were to have a tagline it would either be “Green Lake: a case study in confirmation bias”, or, “Green Lake: The worst good run you’ve ever experienced.

Confirmation Bias

The subtext of White Men Can’t Jump is athletic black style versus un-athletic white substance. Wesley Snipe’s Sidney Deane is an obnoxious, flashy player; Woody Harrelson’s Billy Hoyle is a fundamentally sound shooter with cement feet.

Billy Hoyle: A Black man would rather miss than look bad.

Sidney Deane: Billy, listen to me. White men can’t jump.

At peak hours, Green Lake is a bizarro basketball world where the ugliest basketball stereotypes ring true. Any racist hooper looking for anecdotal support that white men are style-less, un-athletic odd ducks, and black guys are “me-first” lazy athletes need only spend a few games at Green Lake.

A dude who calls himself ‘Monster T’ seems to be a regular and the court alpha. Monster T has an impeccably shaved head, a body of rock covered with tattoos and an intimidating post game anchored by his go to move of barking like a dog at his defender when he gets the ball.

Monster T would be a really good player if he passed the ball or got back on defense, but he doesn’t. He barks… like a dog. In between games he had an impressive two-hand throw down — dude couldn’t be more than 6’1.” But again he mostly just barks… like a dog.

On the lilac side was a guy who Monster T called ‘Grizz.’

Grizz was about 63 years old, had little hair on top of his head and a bushel spouting out from his face. He didn’t move well, the ball never came to him, but he kept score and shuffled back to a defensive position; more often than most of the players on the court. Essentially, his game was jogging 20 feet towards one basket, then slowly turning around and jogging 20 feet towards the other basket, over and over again (like an old man running a YMCA roof track).

The best player on the court was a wiry little guard who favored getting out on a fast break and then jacking up a running, off-balance, one-footed three. Momentum carrying him forward, he would beat everyone to the offensive rebound, collect himself, dribble back out to the corner and sink another three ball.

A crunchy white guy covered in earth tones, brown shoes and a sickeningly hipster beard was the only player attempting defense (sans Grizz). “Granola” hustled on every play, a nice change of pace from the status quo of the court. The problem was, dude was perhaps the worst player on the court (again, sans Grizz) – awkward moving and without a spec of athleticism.

The Wall at Green Lake. Photo by Noah Perkins
The Wall at Green Lake. Photo by Noah Perkins

The Worst Good Run Ever

In Hoops Nation Ballard writes “It’s got good competition, but it’s one of the worst places to go if you actually want to play basketball.” Nearly 20 years later that still holds true.

Most of the guys on the court would crush your average weekend warrior in a one-on-one, but all they seem to want to do is play one-on-one, with nine other guys standing in place watching.

The typical sequence was a fast break basket followed by an inbound pass to a cherry picker. No ball movement no defense.

Often, a dude in his 50’s named Ed Jones is on the court “refereeing” games. Jones is a “playground legend,” one respected member of the Seattle hoops community says. A whistle hangs from Jones neck and he is known for giving players “the most messed up racist nicknames which stick with you every time you play at Green Lake,” the hooper, whom Jones nicknamed ‘Long-Dong Silver’, says. 

The biggest problem with Green Lake is the court is located in an absolutely beautiful, pedestrian packed park. Foot traffic is constantly moving by games, giving everyone that feeling of show time in front of an audience. Nothing ruins pick-up games faster than the wrong combination of onlookers and players looking to show off.

Bottom line:

The court itself is in great condition. The wall on the side of the court for waiting players to hang out and watch from is awesome ambiance. The park is lovely, and the players are legitimately talented, but the run is not good.

Green Lake is a great place to spend a day, it’s a great place to people watch, but there are much better places in Seattle to find pickup games.

Still a must for any die hard hooper passing through town.

"Referee" Ed Jones looks on from under the basket at Green Lake. Photo by Noah Perkins
“Referee” Ed Jones looks on from under the basket at Green Lake. Photo by Noah Perkins
Noah Perkins
Noah has had articles published by a variety of publications including The Bangor Daily News; The NENPA Bulletin; and Monthly Basketball (Japan). His column ‘Heaven is a Playground’ has been featured on ESPN Radio. Noah was also called a "thirst troll" by Tom Arnold once.