It was a regular weekday evening like any other day late November. Because of Daylight’s saving time, it was dark already by 5pm. I had stopped by the local stomping grounds of Charlton Park where I had been hooping on a regular basis but that particular day, there was nobody there. A car pulled up next to me and it was Philip Ethridge, a fellow regular hooper at Charlton. “Yo frank, where everybody at?” asked Phil, “I got no idea man, this sucks” I replied. It was at this moment that I realized that we needed some form of central communication among our hooper buddies to find out where everybody was playing to avoid situations like this. “Phil, why don’t we start a group on facebook and just add everyone on there?” I asked. And sure enough that evening I went home to think of a couple of ideas. At first I was considering making a group called “Charlton Ballers” but it sounded too corny, and most important I figured if the group got popular enough there would be a point that we wouldn’t be able to grow solely because of the name “Charlton”, we would always be limited mostly to the players that hoop there. Since playing at a park symbolizes streetball in the typical sense, I searched online for keyword “Houston Streetball” and no results were found, I thought to myself, surely in a city this big, there must be something related but after further searching, I said to myself “Houston Streetball” it is and formed the group on Facebook. Phil was the second member to join and my fellow friends that I grew up up playing basketball known as “Rocket Town” would be the first members to be added. Phil knew way more people than I did and he added over 50 people that night, and thus we were off to a great start.
As more people started joining the group, I started venturing out to other parks to promote the movement. I bought a scoreboard off amazon and started taking it with me to each park I went to, people always gave me a funny look like “What’s this guy doing here and why does have that garbage with him, we can keep count” but little by little people started being receptive towards a small bit of positive change and when there was close games, there wasn’t any more arguing what the score was. My wife got me a gopro hero session for Christmas, this one was different unlike the other models, its a really small cube that can get mounted almost anywhere, it came with a headstrap and I thought, why not take video while I play, kind of like first person. I started making small mixtapes of myself playing at Charlton and started uploading them online and people began to notice.
It was about February and our group had reached at that point around 300 members. I wanted to throw a tournament but was back and forth about it, a member from the group, Rudy Ortega decided that he wanted to do a tournament and got everyone hyped, so I said, okay let’s just do it and helped him with what I could. We we were able to get 8 teams that day and the tournament was a success. Immediately after the tournament an extra 400 people joined our group over night. Trying to continue the momentum of having people excited, I thought wouldn’t it be cool if we could go park to park and have everyone play each other? Rudy Ortega mentioned on a post “why not call le tour de houston” and immediately I thought, man that was a great idea. So I took the concept of Le Tour de France and modified the logo with a basketball and designed a flyer with a map including 9 venues and each time we stopped by a new place to hoop, more people became interested and joined our group making it bigger.
April rolled around and our popularity continued growing, it was time for another tournament and previously in a tournament the Houston Rockets hosted I had met a marketing executive that worked with ZTE that was interested in sponsoring our tournament by throwing in some of the latest smartphones. The local Popeyes I’ve been going to for several months also sponsored the tournament by giving us some coupons. This time we also ordered several trophies to give away and a buddy of mine that works for Adidas gave me a gift card to give away. This tournament was even more successful than the first one as we were able to get a total of 12 teams.
The 2nd Le Tour de Houston needed to happen, with more members joining from all parts of town we did a west coast edition. We went as far as Tomball, Katy, and Cypress to spread the word. Interestingly enough by this point by most of the stops we came to hoop people had heard about us. At the end of this tour, we threw a barbecue for everyone at Cottage Grove which was gratuitously offered by Marcelo Garza.
We didn’t end up doing a 3rd tournament or a third Le Tour de Houston after the summer as I had originally had hoped so but I did wanted to do something before the year ended and thus to celebrate our first year of existence we are throwing an all star contest that will be held at Charlton Park for free. Everyone in the group and public is invited to attend to participate and the all star game will be played from players in the group that will be voted upon each other in a West vs East !!!.
I definitely want to thank all the people that have joined our group and continue to make it a success because without everyone, Houston Streetball wouldn’t be possible. Before Houston Streetball, I was only hooping on occasion at Charlton Park, since then I’ve probably have been to over 50 places and have hundreds of people from all over Houston. Playing against different people that are better than you is bound to have an effect on your overall game and I can definitely say my game has improved so much in one year. I hope to continue doing my best in promoting basketball for our city in any way shape or form. At this time, we have just under 2500 members to our group and we continue growing little by little each day.
Hope to see everyone out next Saturday on December 10th.