The lingering effects of a year without rims on the hoops in Syracuse left many basketball players eager to get back on the court. The pandemic warranted the rim removal which provided young kids and adults loads of uncertainty.
Nyki Dewberry,19, frequently plays basketball at Skiddy Park. However when the rims were removed, Dewberry was left astray.
“I was desperate. COVID messed up a lot, even my opportunities to go to college,” Dewberry said. “If COVID never hit, I would probably be playing Division II basketball right now.”
The harsh reality of an unforeseen pandemic hindered the aspirations of student athletes last year. Dewberry recounts his early quarantine days as being in the house all day and watching basketball documentaries.
“I don’t think I touched a court for eight to nine months,” Dewberry said. “I was rusty, I felt like the rims got higher.”
The removal of rims last year was to prevent the spread of COVID. However, in removing the rims from basketball hoops, marginalized communities faced a significant loss in lifestyle and culture.
Having rims and then not having them, led Andre Thomas to adapt to his current situation. Thomas, a fitness instructor at Hawk Kning Fitness, believed in making use of what he had.
“I still used the courts because I’m a strength and conditioning coach,” he said.
Thomas incorporated more of the basic skills into his training such as dribbling and rebounding. This process of creation is what Thomas resorted to when the rims were taken away from him and the kids he trains. However, Thomas believes a significant demographic was slighted due to the pandemic.
“High school athletes had nowhere to go indoor and if they could go, it was very select and slim pickings where they could go,” Thomas said. “It was wrong because a few people left the state. It stops their growth and development. It’s for their safety but at the same time, people were playing golf.”
With lack of access to indoor facilities, rims gone, and the pandemic looming, Thomas saw kids falling into bad habits.
“They picked up crime,” Thomas said. “And now it’s hard for us to get those kids back.”
According to data from LocalSyr.com, the overall crime rate went down last year in Syracuse. However, the homicide rate increased by 55% from 2019 to 2020.
With such an increase, who is this really affecting?
Thomas believes the inequities Black communities face were magnified during the pandemic. Rims were removed in Syracuse, but not in many of the suburbs, Thomas said.
“You can have your own basketball rim, a portable one, but if the cops see too many people, they shut it down,” Thomas said. “But they don’t shut it down in Liverpool or Dewitt.”
The Syracuse Department of Parks, Recreation, and Youth Programs is home to 52 city parks, and each park has its own identity for its users.
Julie LaFave, Commissioner of the Syracuse Department of Parks, Recreation, and Youth Programs, has worked in parks and recs for 20 years and has never had a case in which rims needed to be removed prior to the pandemic.
“You don’t ever see parks and rec centers closed in the summertime,” LaFave said. “That’s what we live for.”
LaFave hopes to never experience such a thing ever again. LaFave said the department received “angry” phone calls demanding why the department allowed people to play on their portable rims.
“That’s not a park. We don’t police what everybody does.”
LaFave, a former high school basketball player, understands the love for basketball but urges safety throughout the community. Comparing basketball to cycling is not equivalent, LaFave said. One sport is highly physical while the other, there is no contact at all.
Although cases of the Delta variant continue to increase, it is unlikely the rims will be removed again. The primary focus tends to be elsewhere, Lafave said.
“All of the guidance seems to be more toward vaccinations; we haven’t heard anything about mass gatherings being decreased again,” LaFave said. “For right now we are not having that conversation.”
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