Words by: Luke Hickey
Every lesson i’ve learned about life, i’ve learned through playing pick-up games of basketball. It is the single greatest teacher i’ve experienced so far in my short, fragile existence. You can be a hero on that one day when every shot leaving your fingertips is wetter than the Pacific Ocean and a pariah the next when that regression to the mean finally occurs. How you react to that shooting slump determines the type of person you are. Do you defer to your teammates with a series of hot-potato passes and “my bad”‘s after those shots keep clanking off the rim? Or do you look failure, loss and selfish shot selection in the face while putting the entire team on your back, vowing to not go quietly into the night?
You think i’m kidding, but apart from fighting in wars or raising children, there is no other determiner of men quite like playing in a friendly Sunday game of pick-up ball. And I guess it’s a good way to find exercise and meet people too, I s’pose. In Perth we’re lucky enough to have access to some great facilities, both indoor and outdoor, to make games like this happen frequently. So as we approach summer, let’s use this opportunity to take a look at Perth’s best basketball battlefields.
1. East Fremantle Primary School
Schools are often a great location for weekend basketball, and EFPS gets the shoutout here due to its (relatively) central location and enduring popularity. It’s close enough to Fremantle while being close enough to the surrounding suburbs of Bicton, Palmyra etc. to frequently draw a number of people to weekend friendly competitions.
The greatest thing about EFPS is that bad vibes are almost never present while playing here. Maybe it’s the proximity to Fremantle, but while i’ve had arguments and almost got into fights playing at other locations, everyone who plays at EFPS is really just there to chuck up shots in a chill atmosphere. It’s very, very rare that you’ll encounter That NBA-Wannabe Dickhead at East Freo, and so I have to include it here.
2. Lakeside Recreation Centre
One of the biggest problems with playing basketball as a sport is the fact that on the amateur level, you’re mostly relegated to using outdoor courts to practice and improve, so you’re subject to wind, rain, sun in your eyes etc. It’s hard enough getting your turnaround-fadeaway down to pure muscle memory, but it’s even harder to do so while Mother Nature disrespects you at every opportunity. So, you seek out an indoor practice facility, only problem here is most will charge ridiculous amounts to use their courts for practice time, or just plain won’t offer that service.
Lakeside, run by a baptist church and located in Bibra Lake, charges a mere $3 for ample court time (I think it used to be a gold coin donation, but the Holy Spirit can’t handle money for some reason and so now it’s $3). When you’re hungry for some competition but rain pervades, or if you just want to play hoops w/out getting your retinas roasted by the sun, Lakeside will be your destination.
3. McCallum Park, Victoria Park
Located just off Canning Highway, McCallum Park boasts a number of features aside from its multiple basketball courts. Barbecue areas, picnic tables, not to mention the glorious views of Swan River and the CBD make this a prime pick-up spot. It gets pretty busy on weekends, but like I said, there’s enough courts that you can usually grab a game right away. A chain-link fence surrounds the basketball area, giving it the classic Rucker Park-look.
McCallum Park is really built to destroy, spectating crowds can build pretty quickly as well as attracting people from the skate park not far away. This is where legends are created; you can have the game of your life here, pulling up to the three line like Steph Curry while crossing over that one guy who played 2 seasons for the Wildcats, or be completely and utterly humiliated. I once had my shot blocked here so ferociously I had to immediately leave and spent the rest of the day crying on the floor of my shower and punching my reflection in the mirror. Make no mistake, this is Perth’s Madison Square Garden. DO NOT, bring that weak shit here.