New York is a basketball city. Sure, baseball gets a lot of attention when the Yankees are doing well and football attracts plenty of interest even though the professional teams play in northern New Jersey, but the orange ball and nylon hoop remain close to the city's heart. The passion for the sport that started on the blacktop of city courts has spread out to gyms and playgrounds across the region making the tri-state area a hotbed for top-notch hoops on all levels.
Once all of the baseball and football gear is put away for the season, gyms across the region begin filling up with competitive basketball games in family-friendly settings. Of course, any conversation about New York area basketball would be incomplete without mention of the city's NBA team, the New York Knicks. Watching a Knicks game in person is an unforgettable experience for any basketball fan- the squeaking sneakers, courtside celebrities, and midtown glitz and glamour make watching the Knickerbockers a fond memory.
But if you can't get to see these pro games, or can't afford the high ticket prices, there are plenty of opportunities to catch quality basketball for a fraction of the price and hassle. The greater New York area has dozens of colleges and universities, most of which have a school basketball team with games open to the public. In the case of some of the smaller schools, admission is free and the size of most gyms ensures an intimate experience no matter where you sit.
The area is also home to some quality Division I teams that showcase some of the country's top young talent. Tickets are inexpensive and families often appreciate the team-oriented style of play and enthusiastic fan base. Universities like St. Johns in Queens, Hofstra in Long Island, and Iona in Westchester have on-campus arenas where fans can sit close enough to hear the coaches' raspy commands while still having the sense of being in a stadium environment.
The professional, and even collegiate, teams have experienced a lull in play the past few years, but high school basketball in the greater New York area has never been better. The city's high school basketball tradition is renowned and suburban teams have garnered state titles and a growing reputation over the past decade or so. Attending a high school basketball game is an ideal way for families to get involved with their communities. Not only do families have the opportunity to get close to the action and build relationships with their neighbors, they can make it home before dinner without spending a dime.
If you're living in Manhattan, catching quality basketball shouldn't be a problem. Madison Square Garden, often referred to as the mecca of the sport, hosts Knicks professional games as well as several NCAA college basketball tournaments and the PSAL high school basketball playoff. Families looking for an inexpensive option should attend one of the NCAA tournaments that allow ticket holders to watch several games for the price of one.
Madison Square Garden College Basketball:
12/05/09-4pm-Big Apple Classic
12/08/09-7pm-Jimmy V Classic
12/09/09-7pm-SEC/Big East Invitational
12/13/09-1pm-Maggie Dixon Classic (Women's)
12/20/09-2pm-St. Johns vs. Hofstra
Westchester may have always been a bit envious of the legendary basketball being played in the city's five boroughs, especially as it peers over its borders into the Bronx, but Westchester basketball has really arrived over the last decade or so. In the high school ranks, Mount Vernon has been a nationally ranked team year after year; Archbishop Stepinac plays amongst top talent in the New York City public league and the level of play countywide just might be the second best in the state. The county's preeminent university team is undoubtedly Iona located right in New Rochelle.
Families have myriad options when it comes to watching quality basketball without having to travel very far. Rockland County might not have the basketball pedigree of its neighbors in the big city but Rockland residents are close enough to the Nets' home base to catch a game or two. Families can just hop in the car and head south to a Nets' game in the New Jersey Meadowlands where tickets are cheaper and easier to get than at Madison Square Garden. The Nets' also offer fan experience packages to make the game more fun, including pre-game photo taken on center court, an autographed photo of Nets' mascot, Sly the Fox, and Nets' gift bag. Prices and packages vary.
Affordable, quality basketball in Queens is all about St. Johns University in Flushing. The university has a proud history of college basketball dating back nearly 100 years. While the team plays some games in Madison Square Garden, it also plays against some of the top basketball programs in the country right in Queens. The Carnesecca Arena located on campus is an inexpensive and intimate setting where you can watch some of the best basketball outside of the Garden. Of course, Queens also has a tradition of quality high school basketball. Interested families should check in with their local schools for scheduling.
Notable St. John's Games at Carnesecca Arena:
12/13/09-4pm-St. John's vs. Fordham
12/23/09-7pm-St. John's vs. Bryant
1/03/10-5:30pm-St. John's vs. Providence
Brooklyn has arguably the best high school basketball in all of New York City and maybe even the country. The rivalries between schools are deep-seeded and intense, and the quality of play is generally high across the board. Families living in southern Brooklyn should try to catch a game at Lincoln High School in Coney Island, a school that has churned out scores of university and professional basketball stars. Families looking for a university game can either head out to Flushing for a St. John's game or head to the Long Island University gym where the school's team plays quality NCAA opponents right in downtown Brooklyn.
In Connecticut, college basketball is all about the University of Connecticut. UConn has one of the best programs in the country and its team is truly beloved in a state that boasts no major professional sports team. Though the campus is located in Storrs, the team plays many of its games in Hartford at the XL Center. Closer to home is Fairfield University, whose team squares off against some quality NCAA opponents.
Nassau and Suffolk Counties, Long Island
Although Long Island lacks a signature college basketball team, the whole island seems to get behind the team from Hofstra University. Each year, the team seems to have a way of either sneaking into the big NCAA tournament at the end of the season, or coming close. Hofstra plays a lot of quality opponents on Long Island and games are inexpensive and intimate. Many Long Islanders also choose to drive into Queens to catch a game at St. John's in Flushing.