caged by choice

Updated: Jul 2

The Cage is nothing more than a piece of asphalt next to a subway stop on the corner of 6th Avenue and 3rd West Street in Manhattan's Greenwich Village, but this cult basketball court is a sanctuary for a specific group of religious fanatics - cult cult basketball. In The Cage dreams do not die, they are born there.

If you exit West4th-Washington Square subway station on Manhattan 6th Avenue, to your right is perhaps the most famous street basketball court in the world. The court is known as The Cage.

The court itself is an asphalt rectangle surrounded by a 6-meter-high steel mesh (hence its recognizable name). The basketball gods threw it between four tall buildings in Greenwich Village, next to Washington Square Park. The playground opened on October 14, 1935. In 1945 Sixth Avenue was renamed Avenue of the Americas at the suggestion of Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia (1882–1947) to honor Pan-American ideals and principles. The site was formally assigned to Parks on August 27, 1953.

The basketball court itself is smaller than the official ones (patch of asphalt that stretches 57 by 35 feet). The lines that mark the court are usually not outlines, so the basketball game in The Cage is literally cage basketball. From 1977 until today, one of the most famous basketball tournaments is organized, which lasts seven days a week from Memorial Day (May 31) to Labor Day (September 7). After a one-year break due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the famous tournament officially named Kenny Graham's West Fourth Street tournament continues on June 25 this year.

New York is the sanctuary of street basketball. There are over 540 outdoor playgrounds in New York, but The Cage e and Holcombe Rucker Park are the most famous. "The Cage" has been immortalized in many documentaries, in Play Station video games, in countless articles in Sports Illustrated, ESPN, MTV, MSG, The New York Daily News, The New York Times, The New York Post, Dime Magazine, Bounce Magazine. Players from all over the world come to the tournament. The matches are followed by passers-by, photographers, basketball talent hunters, and journalists who are "stuck" on the wire around the field. The games themselves are enriched with the sounds of cars, the sirens of the fire trucks, and the police sirens, and the game on the court in The Cage is much more than a basketball. It is an act of initiation, an event that seals the actual "melting" with New York.

The Cage was home to many famous NBA players. Mario Elie, Anthony Mason, Rod Strickland, Jason Williams, Stephon Marbury, and Smush Parker, among others, built their character and their signature moves in The Cage.

There is an unwritten rule that to participate in the tournament with your own team, you really need to have players with almost NBA quality. However, the beauty of The Cage is that if you come very early in the morning on the weekends, you can get the opportunity to play a game or two in 5 to 5, even though you are not at that top level. The Cage offers that beautiful opportunity to remember the spirit, magic, and breath of the city and if you get a chance to score a few points. However, to get to a place in the competition, you must "enroll" in the list of "next competitors." The shout that puts you on the waiting list is "I Got Next." However, whether you will appear in court depends on the decision of the unofficial "boss" of The Cage—the man who has the same name and surname as the famous Lakers basketball player - James Worthy. James "sets the tone" of the atmosphere in The Cage with his appearance, voice, and authority." He "sticks" the nicknames of the players.

Worthy first set foot in The Cage 35 years ago with a friend who came to play basketball. James says he has never looked back since he first set foot in The Cage. He just kept coming. His name may be just a pseudonym, but it remains part of The Cage myth. James lives in Jamaica, a Queens. He works as a home attendant but spends at least 8 hours on the court during the summer, just for the love of the game.

When I first visited The Cage in October last year, and the idea for NEIGHBORHOOPZ was still just an idea, I had the opportunity to meet Worthy. His spirit is lovely. I remember him saying to me, "Hey European boy! You like to play? You gotta get your name on my list! And shoot some hoops to see if you worth something. I jumped in on James' list, but I could not play a match because the list was long, and I did not have confidence in my game looking at the quality of the basketball game played in The Cage that day.

But things are different now. Suppose the weather is good on Saturday early in the morning. I will be in The Cage to complete the NEIGHBORHOOPZ challenge on the epic playground as part of my challenge to donate funds to Megjashi and support nonprofit action to reduce gun violence. Then I will try to play a 5 on 5 game if James is in a good mood to put me on the list. I got NEXT! The Cage Challenge!

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