The Nomads’ Guide To Pick-Up Basketball: Rose Park, Washington D.C.

Address: 26th Street NW Cross Street O NW) Washington D.C.

In the 70s it was a combination of nightly hockey-style fist-fights and the absence of white superstars that alienated casual fans.

The narrative goes something like: blah blah blah, Bird and Magic, Lakers and Celtics, East Coast and West Coast, Michael Jordan, basketball saved.

In 1998 television ratings peaked with Jordan’s last Finals victory.

The dominance of the fan-repellent Spurs; the lockout; the departure of big ticket players like Reggie Miller, Clyde Drexler, Charles Barkley, Scottie Pippen, Patrick Ewing and Hakeem Olajuwon; the stylistic shift from the lunchpail 80’s to the stretch four, Charmin soft, Millennial mid-aughts; the Malice at the Palace; Kobe in Colorado, all contributed to another era of dwindling interest.

In 2004 the NCAA Division II Men’s Basketball Championship drew higher ratings than an ABC telecasted Mavericks Magic game. Not surprisingly, a game that is still the least watched network broadcast of an NBA game ever.

In 2008 ratings began improving, a trend that has more or less been consistent for the past seven seasons.

The Celtics Lakers rivalry renewed, big-threes were created and a new generation of socially conscious, genuinely likable superstars popped up all over the league.

Coinciding with the 08 Lakers Celtics NBA Finals was the election of Obama.

Obama’s early morning pick-up games with Reggie Love and Arnie Duncan were just as important to the growth of basketball as anything that took place in the NBA between 2009 and 2011.

Think back to 09, Twitter was new and things had only recently started to trend on social media. Included in those things were Obama’s basketball exploits: the trash he talked to Scottie Pippen, the time he went 2 for 22 from the free throw line, the time he shot around with Clark Kellog.

Politics aside, who is more innately cool than Obama?

The coolest dude on the planet is hooping, so naturally a lot of otherwise non-interested people picked up a ball for the first time.

Playing recreational basketball became a status symbol among Millennials, a form of social capital.

In 2010, I had buddy who worked for the FCC and lived in D.C. I remember him talking about recent graduates working in Government and how the basketball court was becoming the new golf course.

Given the time and place, ballin at Rose Park in D.C. in 2010 ranks high on my list of basketball inside the fishbowl moments.

The first thing I noticed about the court was all of the players shared certain physical traits. They all kind of looked like they knew their way around a plate of Gefilte Fish and a glass of Manischewitz. As my buddy from the FCC said “the whole orthodox shul definitely showed up.”

Props to this one dude Donnie who pridefully rocked his Hebrew school jersey — first time I ever saw rabbinical apparel on the court.

In 1926, New York Daily News sports editor Paul Gallico wrote: The reason that basketball appeals to the Hebrew is that the game places a premium on an alert, scheming mind, flashy trickiness, artful dodging and general smart aleckness.


A couple of the hoopers at Rose Park were decent but for the most part there wasn’t that much talent on the court. Perhaps, unsurprisingly, the two dudes from Howard University dominated.

Six weeks later my hoops crew from Boston went back to Rose Park, there Donnie was, sitting in the same spot, rocking the same jersey–ready to brick layups as soon as his number was called.

Bottom Line:

Consistent run, low quality players. A few diamonds in the rough, but most of the guys playing were spastic and uncoordinated in that “I’ve never done this before” kinda way.

The blue top sucked up the D.C. dog day sun making it a crisp 90+ on the court. The surface was lopsided enough that the accompanying knee pain might have made the run not worth it.

On the plus side, the park, court included, was partially renovated in 2014.