#basketballneverstops

#basketballneverstops is a hashtag, 21 characters of clever marketing meant to sell expensive shoes in the absence of the nightly shoe commercial that is the NBA season. It’s easy to filter and dismiss marketing messages: They’re often insincere or cloying or made up of more noise than necessity.

Nike’s newest ad is clever, well-produced and slick and will undoubtedly sell expensive shoes.

It’s also true.

***

Basketball ebbs and flows, but it never stops.

Basketball starts its trickle as summer loosens its grip. Kids everywhere try out, make varsity, settle for JV or play freshman ball. Colleges roll the ball out with varying degrees of fanfare, from all-out midnight madness parties to sparsely attended pep rallies to sets of sprints.

The cold weather opens the faucet. Carfuls and busloads of high school and college players, coaches, cheerleaders and supporters set out on road trips to musty gyms, communal warming huts on cold winter nights. TNT and ESPN and ESPN2, 3, U and beyond broadcast all conceivable kinds of contest. Even during an NBA lockout, basketball begins pooling up. Ankles, knees, waist. Soon we’re wading through a welcome flood.

Spring puts a thumb over the hose’s end, streamlining competition into something fine and sharp and beautiful. From single-elimination to seven-game series to college rec centers suddenly filled with inspired undergrads, the game is everywhere.

Summer slows the steady stream to a drip. The sound of rubber on wood is confined to community centers and AAU events. The crisp crack of leather on nylon stays alive on suburban driveways and city playgrounds.

***

Thank basketball’s inherent simplicity for its unceasing presence. From Dr. James Naismith’s peach basket and asymmetrical ball to the current configuration of rim, net and bouncy sphere, the game has never required expensive equipment, more than one competitor or anything more than a passably flat surface, time and energy.

Football lives on ESPN exclusively during its down months. Baseball makes its home in the hearts of romantics and minds of fantasy fanatics. Basketball lives in our everyday lives, every day. In our driveways, our streets, our parks, our housing projects, our shimmering new high schools, our college basketball cathedrals, basketball lives.

***

From Pauley Pavilion to Allen Fieldhouse, basketball never stops.

From a patchwork driveway in Wichita to an empty lot in Billings, basketball never stops.

From the Rucker to West 4th, from Venice Beach to Chicago’s South Side, basketball never stops.

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