Basketball was born in America, but it’s a global game now.
Look no further than the NBA, where foreign players such as Dirk Nowitzki (Germany), Pau Gasol (Spain) and Steve Nash (Canada) have become superstars on the sport’s top stage. The league’s defending champions, the San Antonio Spurs, are led by a French point guard (Tony Parker) and an Argentine shooting guard (Manu Ginobili) who will be strong candidates for the Basketball Hall of Fame.
More proof of the sport’s worldwide reach can be found in the portfolio of Chris Tubbs, a London-based photographer who has taken photos of hoops and backboards in more than 35 countries.
“You're always sort of stumbling across something that is completely different from what you've seen before,” said Tubbs, who travels frequently for various assignments that have nothing to do with basketball.
As a side project, Tubbs has shot basketball courts of all shapes and sizes, from urban centers such as Hong Kong and Rio de Janeiro to rural settings such as Iceland and Slovenia. He’s taken more than 350 photos over the past decade, using the same camera and lens for all of them.
“Sometimes it can just be a hoop, not even a backboard, and people play,” Tubbs said. “And they put it up in the weirdest places, where there's grass or sand or rocks.”
Many of the courts Tubbs photographed were clearly abandoned years ago. Others are still active. But this project is not just about basketball.
“It soon became about the background as much as about the court itself,” Tubbs said. “It's just a board, and then whatever's behind it changes. That's sort of a universal element which I really enjoyed about it.”
Tubbs’ project started during a trip to Cuba about 11 years ago. As a tourist, he was allowed to shoot photos of an old sports complex that had a basketball court.
“But then, as I was wandering around,” he said, “I started seeing (courts) everywhere.”
From that point on, Tubbs would make an effort to photograph basketball hoops in every country he’d visit. He’d set aside time to sort of “get lost” in the towns and cities so he could add to his collection.
The more photos that he took, the more he realized just how universal the sport had become.
“I found it surprising just how many (hoops) there were,” Tubbs said. “Even in countries like the (United Kingdom), where it wouldn't seem to be such a big sport compared to others, there actually are loads. They're all over the place.”
Perhaps the most surprising hoops he saw came during a train trip from Paris to Shanghai, China.
“As we took the train through Mongolia, there were some basketball courts just there in the desert — fantastic, amazing sort of images — but I just couldn't stop and take them because I was on a train,” he said.
Tubbs was frustrated by the missed opportunity, but he’s not giving up just yet.
“I actually wrote to the cultural attache of Mongolia to tell her about the project,” he said. “I desperately want to go back there.”
- Kyle Almond, CNN