Field Of Dreams Park

Field of Dreams

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

The Field of Dreams is a basketball court named for the “Field of Dreams” program, a 1993 initiative sponsored by Mayor David Dinkins to turn vacant lots into parks. Many such lots were transformed into baseball fields, but because of limited space, this site in the Bronx was turned into a basketball court.

Basketball was invented by James Naismith in 1892, and caught on slowly in the early 20th century. In the 1940s, the creation of the National Basketball Association (NBA), the first permanent professional basketball league, popularized the game, especially in urban areas. New York emerged as a prominent basketball hub when City College won the NCAA championship in 1950, and the New York Knicks played in three straight NBA finals from 1950 to 1952. The Knicks rose again as a dominant team in the late 1960s and 70s, at a time when New York City high school teams were also earning a reputation for success. Led by Lew Alcindor, later known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Power Memorial of the Bronx was recognized as the best high school team in the nation in 1967. Other local NBA stars since then have included Tiny Archibald, Connie Hawkins, Chris Mullin, Mark Jackson, Kenny Anderson, Stephon Marbury, and Elton Brand.

Although New York City basketball has achieved success on the high school, college and professional level, it is also proud of its streetball tradition. Streetball is the name given to basketball played on playground courts such as the Field of Dreams, where the court is paved with asphalt, the hoops usually have no nets, and the style of play is generally fast-paced and rough.

Streetball is played with some variations upon the rules of professional basketball. These include a player calling out when he is fouled, the absence of foul shots, baskets counted as one point, baskets from behind the three-point line counted as two points, and winners staying on the court to play the next challenger. There is also the half court version of streetball in which a team must take a rebounded miss back to the three-point line before attempting to score. In half court streetball, the team that scores is awarded possession. The most famous playground basketball, or streetball, competition is the Rucker Tournament, played annually since the 1960s. Named for coach and community leader Holcombe Rucker (1926-1965), the 14 team tournament brings together some of the best basketball players in the country, and past participants have included Julius “Dr. J” Irving, Allen Iverson, Kobe Bryant and Vince Carter.

Streetball competitions are also distinguished by the presence of many great athletes who never reached the college or professional level due to poor academics, injuries or other circumstances. One of the most famous playground legends is Earl “The Goat” Manigault (1944-1998). In his prime, The Goat is said to have outplayed future NBA Hall of Famers Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Unfortunately, an addiction to heroin prevented him from attending college, at a time when college basketball was a necessary prerequisite for playing in the NBA. Later in life, The Goat dedicated himself to community service, and there is a basketball court and tournament in Manhattan named in his honor.

Field of Dreams Park, located on East 167 Street between Simpson Street and Southern Boulevard in the South Bronx neighborhood of Crotona Park East, was assigned to Parks on August 27, 1993. Parks and a local community group collaborated in constructing the courts, which are flanked by green sitting benches and a short grassy strip.

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