play / 2015

Basketball Courts and Public Art: Inspiring Inter-generational Play in Public Parks

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by Project Backboard

Public park basketball courts are the “heart-beat” of many communities. Leveraging the energy and creativity created by outdoor basketball, Project Backboard will coordinate with local and national partners to renovate 15 basketball courts in LA, commission and install public art, made by community members and working artists, around each court, host free all-ages basketball tournaments, cleaning up graffiti and install outdoor fitness equipment where appropriate.


In what areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • City of Los Angeles

How do you plan to use these resources to make change?

  • Conduct research
  • Engage residents and stakeholders
  • Implement a pilot or new project
  • Expand a pilot or a program

How will your proposal improve the following “Play” metrics?

  • Access to open space and park facilities
  • Percentage of residents that feel safe in their neighborhoods
  • Number of residents with easy access to a “vibrant” park (Dream Metric)
  • Number of parks with intergenerational play opportunities (Dream Metric)
  • Number (and quality) of informal spaces for play (Dream Metric)

Describe in greater detail how you will make LA the best place to play.

Basketball is the most popular recreational sport in the United States across all ages and genders. The balance of individual contribution and potential for group excellence makes basketball a game that is easily shared with friends, family, neighbors and strangers.

Project Backboard believes that improving basketball court facilities and installing artwork in public parks encourages greater park usage by all ages and genders. Increased park usage generated by facility renovation has the potential to impact park safety and build stronger communities through increasing social interaction between different groups.

Project Backboard’s prior initiative in Memphis resulted in 18 renovated basketball courts and 37 individual works of art, created by community members and working artists, including graphic backboards, on court murals, tile mosaics and kinetic sculptures.

Installing artwork on and around basketball courts brings creative thinking into the heart of communities and inspires people to imagine a future outside of their current circumstances. Individually designed courts in each neighborhood also creates a sense of ownership and community pride which helps ensure that courts won’t be further marred with graffiti or trash and makes parks safer.

Los Angeles has a rich history of outdoor basketball and a number of successful college and professional athletes have developed their game on LA’s public outdoor courts. While Los Angeles has some great outdoor courts, it also has a number of courts which could be improved through community engagement and art enhancements. Working with a variety of partners and stakeholders our goal is to pilot a park enhancement in the next year with the goal of ultimately completing at least 15 park projects and setting up a trustees organization for public basketball courts.

Once courts are completed and public artwork is installed, parks will be activated with a free Full-Court 21 basketball tournament, including live music and a community block party. Full-Court 21 allows all ages and genders to participate without requiring teammates.

Los Angeles can be a better place to play and the success of Project Backboard’s efforts in Memphis will easily to a city that loves basketball and has weather suitable to outdoor basketball all year long.

Please explain how you will evaluate your work.

The first step in this process is visiting and photographing all the public outdoor basketball courts in the city and assigning a numeric value to the condition of each court, including grading the surroundings, rims, backboards, lines, etc. From their courts will be selected based on proximity to local partners, strength of stakeholders groups and the needs of the court. Completed courts will be evaluated by tracking usage over time, depth of local engagement, number of volunteers and participants in basketball tournaments.

How can the LA2050 community and other stakeholders help your proposal succeed?

  • Money (financial capital)
  • Volunteers/staff (human capital)
  • Publicity/awareness (social capital)
  • Community outreach
  • Network/relationship support