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The Decline of NYC Basketball

The Mecca in Decline


Konchalski is New York’s chief basketball curator and historian, someone who has long celebrated the city’s excellence, but on that afternoon, riding out to Long Island, he looked out at the playground courts and felt troubled by what he saw. For decades, those courts had been filled with ballplayers, kids shoveling the snow or stumbling through the heat so they could go 1-on-15 in overcrowded games of 21.5Courts like these had molded players like Cousy and King and Mullin into stars; these blacktops had turned playground savants like Earl “The Goat” Manigault and Joe “The Destroyer” Hammond into city legends. But now, out the window, he saw skateboards. Not basketballs.Skateboards.

That moment foreshadowed New York’s current talent shortage. “Today,” Konchalski says, “the playgrounds are basically empty. You see a few immigrant kids, that’s it. Everyone else is inside doing who knows what.” 

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