As a native New Yorker and diehard (delusional) Knicks fan, let me be the first to say, “Los Angeles is the basketball center of the universe right now.” Yeah, I wrote that. I wrote it because it’s true. I’ve lived here as many years as there are Lakers championships, and now more than ever, The City of Angels currently holds the spot as the King of the Court when it comes to being the basketball capital of the world.
Yes, my hometown will always call it, “The City’s game”, and the World’s Most Famous Arena will always be “The Mecca”, but as we gear up for 2023 and beyond, you can feel the game’s presence and culture deep within the fabric that weaves together the tapestry that is Los Angeles.
It’s not even because of the Lakers and Clippers. Besides the Bubble Championship, the Lakers have been the doormat of the Western Conference for a decade, and the Clippers are well, the Clippers. From the growth of the Drew League, to the Sparks adding Cambage and the Bruins balling again in Westwood, LA hoops is having a moment. The city’s basketball identity isn’t defined by the NBA teams that call it home, but by the people who do.
One hooper making his mark in Los Angeles is Chris Hooks, founder of Wear Your Sneakers, who noticed the culture around the game shifting as the pandemic was just beginning. “When it comes to the basketball in LA, a lot of people think Venice Beach, but that’s no longer a thing when it comes to finding a great run in the city. Kids aren’t outside doing things like they used to, they are inside on technology. Everyone wants to play indoors now, on nicer courts.”
Chris’ basketball memories in LA run deep. “Right after White Men Can’t Jump came out, I was playing ball at this outdoor court in Palms, and Woody Harrelson came out and was just hooping. The movie maybe dropped two, three weeks before, and randomly I’m out there, this small court, not too many people, really random, and I played against him, and beat him! I was 10 years old.”
Now fast forward to today, and a life dedicated to ball and sneakers, (Chris claims to own 1200-1500 pairs but insists he wears them all), and thanks to a few plugs and connections with NBA trainers like @LethalShooter, Chris started a run of his own for friends and family down in Little Tokyo. All of a sudden, this was the place to be. “The Run” was born.
“For me it feels like there has been a shift to “invite only” type of runs, private, keeping the list tight, so I got hit up by friends were like, “I know you got a gym somewhere!”, and it just started from there.”
Basketball brings people together, and Saturday mornings in DTLA is where Chris is building his community. His god-daughter Kennedy Martin has built a women’s run, and it’s going crazy. “Sneakers are at the forefront of what we do. Most people who were into sneakers played or love sports, so they are down to participate in the movement and join the community. The whole point of it is to wear ‘em.”
The idea of people wearing basketball shoes they take great pride in to actually play basketball might sound simple, but at a time where more and more folks seem to be clout chasing and just trying to flex for Instagram, it’s great to see like minded creative people with a shared love and passion for the game come together and just ball out. This is basketball in Los Angeles.