Despite the NBA wrapping up one of the more eventful regular seasons and Finals in recent memory almost a month ago, the off-season has proven to be just as unexpected and chock full of twists and turns – most notably marked by changes of scenery for superstars like Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose and Dwyane Wade – who have embodied both the hurt of a superstar leaving the only team he has ever known, as well as the feeling of a prodigal son returning to the place that first nurtured him.
A staggering $1.72 billion USD was handed out in 27 contracts on Day 1 of free agency. This not only marked the financial strength of the NBA, but also its global reach and a thriving international system based on the fact that 100 international players from 37 countries and territories were on opening night rosters for the 2015-16 season.
Needles to say, historic courts like Harlem’s Rucker Park and Venice Beach’s sun-kissed concrete are no longer the end-all, be-all of hoops action.
But like with our other verticals that we cover, we’re always on the lookout for the unique and unexpected when it comes to finding hidden gems around the world.
Here are 10 basketball courts that should be on your hoop dream bucket list.
3D Basketball Court
Where: Munich, Germany
When one thinks of a basketball court, thoughts of a flat surface of varying concrete construction with white lines painted for designation is probably an image that comes to mind.
However, that notion is completely abandoned when it comes to the the 3D basketball court in Munich which appears like a person has landed on Mars and would be better suited to use a Rover to navigate the court than a normal crossover.
Comprised of a soft orange-red tartan and various ridges at Berufsschulzentrum Riesstraße, it was created as a part of the art project, QUIVID, by a group of artists known as “Inges Idee” who are made up by Hans Hemmert, Axel Lieber, Thomas A. Schmidt and Georg Zey.
While it may not be the best place to lace ’em up if you’re looking to run full-court, it does have a Willy Wonka-style vibe if you were trying to coax someone who was adverse to basketball to give it a shot.
The Floating Basketball Court
Where: Lake Tonle Sap, Cambodia
According to 2011 data, 1.4 million people live in floating villages in Cambodia with another 4 million on the banks. Needless to say, water often intermingles with activities associated with daily life.
One of the better examples of this is on Lake Tonie Sap where the specific location of the floating village of Chong Khneas changes depending on the time of the year. During the rainy season, it is pushed it to the edges of the lake, while more dry climates makes the village more like an island where it sits out in the middle.
In addition to a floating pig farm, two schools, a community market, a general store, a Catholic church, and a Buddhist temple, Chong Khneas also has one of the only floating basketball courts in the world and includes things like catfish, freshwater dolphins and crocodiles as things considered “out of bounds.”
The Carrier Classic Court
Where: USS Carl Vinson
In addition to notable war time services like being deployed during Operation Desert Strike, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Southern Watch and Operation Enduring Freedom, US Naval ship, the USS Carl Vinson, was also used for the at-sea burial of Osama bin Laden after he was killed in 2011.
Seven months prior to the ship’s small role in ridding the world of one of its most notorious terrorists, the USS Carl Vinson’s deck served as the stage for the Carrier Classic which pitted Michigan State vs. North Carolina.
With President Obama in attendance – and the Operation’s Room looming high above the action – the Veteran’s Day clash was the first and only of its kind after the scheduled game the next year aboard the USS Yorktown in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina was cancelled due to condensation on the court.
Where: Paris, France
Located in the 9th arrondissement of Paris on Rue Duperré, the colorful court between a row of buildings serves as a collaboration between Pigalle and Ill-Studios.
First created as a partnership between the aforementioned brand and Nike in 2009 – who continues to have a strong partnership to this day due in large part to Pigalle founder Stéphane Ashpool’s affinity for both on-court and off-court basketball aesthetics – the court recently served as a backdrop for the the brand’s Spring/Summer 2015 presentation.
The bold colors are reminiscent of a 1930’s oil painting, Sportsmen, by Russian artist Kasimir Malevic, whose sensibilities can be seen and reflected in how Ill-Studios used the very nature of what is needed to differentiate the paint, three point lines and out of bounds on a basketball court.
“Sportsmen is one of our favourite paintings of all time,” said the studio. “We were attracted to the subjects of the painting, but also the strong colors and graphic composition that matched the direction we had in mind.”
City Wall Rooftop Court
Where: Dubrovnik, Croatia
Unlike other courts that may be temporary or seen as more of a gimmick, the City Wall Rooftop Court is decidedly a player’s court thanks to its conventional – albeit elevated – position in the historic city.
Set against a smattering of orange tiled, terra-cotta roofs with the Asiatic Sea in the distance, the “Pearl of the Adriatic” won’t overpower your run, but you also won’t feel like you’re playing in a run-of-the-mill park environment either.
5 Centre Market Place
Where: New York City
For over 25 years, husband and wife design team, Courtney and Robert Novogratz, have been adding their sensibilities to various spaces in Manhattan which have made for some of the most awe-inspiring homes and studios in the city.
Although space is at a premium in Manhattan, the Novogratz have the rare distinction of designing not just one, but two homes in the borough which have indoor basketball facilities.
While the court in the townhouse at 400 West Street in the basement level – with skylight to let in natural light – is certainly charming, their gem is on the roof of the townhouse at 5 Centre Market Place in Little Italy, where enthusiasts are exposed to the open-air and a dome atop that is equal parts Sistine Chapel as it is Rucker Park.
Angels Gate Park
Where: San Pedro, CA
Angels Gate Park in San Pedro, California is another spot that eschews gimmicks in favor of a locale that is purely functional. However, the location and proximity to the Pacific Ocean with panoramic views of the coastline and Santa Catalina Island make it truly one of the gems of the basketball world and often make for some of the most stunning silhouettes of basketball around.
David Crombie Park
Where: Toronto, Canada
Named after the former Mayor of Toronto who served from 1972-1978 and oversaw the creation of the St. Lawrence neighborhood in which the park is located, David Crombie Park was built in the fall of 2010 with a $22,000 gift from Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment and was made of interlocking, grated plastic red tiles that looked like the sides of a milk crate.
However, a 2014 drug bust resulted in the court being badly damaged. Maple Leafs Sports once again footed the bill – this time leaving out the tile element of the playing surface.
House of Mamba
Where: Shanghai, China
During Kobe Bryant’s ninth tour of China, Nike unveiled the world’s first full-sized LED basketball court which retrofitted players with special armbands in order to use motion-tracking and reactive LED visualization to train and challenge the players through authentic drills based on Bryant’s own workout.
The result was something out of the film, Tron – with players urged to get to spots on the floor with visual cues using a variety of moves to mimic how Bryant dominated the NBA for two decades.
Michael Jordan Simulator
Where: New York City
Relying on the notion that every person – no matter their age or physical abilities – wants to “be like Mike,” creative agency AKQA, the makers of the aforementioned “House of Mamba” – used the 2015 NBA All-Star Game festivities to give people the chance to relive some of Air Jordan’s greatest moments.
At first glance, those that stepped onto the half-court were surrounded by white walls, but with the touch of a button, the environment shifted to mimic moments like his game-winner against the Utah Jazz while playing for the Chicago Bulls or his corner jumper that won the NCAA championship while playing for North Carolina.
No detail went unnoticed when it came to the project. In the 1982 game-winning scenario, AKQA enlisted the help of production company Stardust to hire 250 actors who all donned throwback fashion – complete with big mustaches and mullets – for an extra dose of ’80s authenticity when it came to how the scene played out for those lucky enough to step on the court.
ESPN called it the “best NBA All-Star Weekend Experience.”
For more explorations of unique sporting venues, check out 7 of the most unique soccer fields in the world.
- Featured/Main Image: Sebastien Michelini