Finding the right type of sports surfacing is a frequent subject of discussion. In the case of football pitches, the only question in recent years has been whether to use natural turf or synthetic turf. Often, the latter option...
Streetball and basketball – outdoor recreational sports classics
Compared to many other sports, basketball is still relatively new. Invented in the United States in 1891 by an educator named James Naismith, this sport was intended to be an alternative to other ball sports that require physical contact between players. Today, basketball is a sport known and played all over the world, and in the U.S., its “cradle”, it is even the second most popular sport after American football. Especially the top players of the US professional basketball league NBA are very well known; in 2021, seven of them were among the 20 highest-paid athletes in the world – no other sport, not even football (three players) is represented with more athletes on the list.
Streetball is an offshoot of basketball that originated in major US cities on publicly accessible basketball courts. The rules vary widely and often only one half of the court, and thus only one basket, is used. Streetball, however, is more than just a type of sport or recreational activity; a youth culture emerged around it that also became popular in Europe about 30 years ago. Certain clothing and music are just as much a part of it as showing off certain moves, tricks and skills in the game. The origins of streetball are often associated with socially deprived neighbourhoods in major US cities, where it was often integrated into social projects as part of local community service, and still is to this day. Rucker Park in New York's Harlem district is an example of this and is not least famed for the fact that later superstars such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or Kevin Durant used to play there.
It was not by chance that streetball became so well known in Europe in the early 1990s. The NBA had gained immense popularity in the 1980s and the sporting goods industry was happy to embrace this trend. While a US sporting goods manufacturer made millions in sales marketing the ultimate basketball superstar of the 1990s – Michael Jordan – as the brand’s ambassador, a German-based sporting goods manufacturer tried to spread the hype to Europe and make the sport even more popular here in the form of streetball. Temporary streetball courts were erected in many German city centres at the time and associated events attracted large numbers of spectators. The finals of the biggest "Streetball Challenge" in Berlin were even broadcast on public television. Slam dunk contests were held and streetball soon became very popular in Germany. Admittedly, those days are over, but streetball is still popular here in Europe, too, and public courts are readily used. Most recently, the sport even made its Olympic debut at the 2020/2021 Olympic Games as 3x3 basketball.
Today, in the age of YouTube and Instagram, sports in which you can show off your own tricks and skills in pictures and videos are once again very popular. An international beverage producer is also organizing major streetball events in Germany again. The sport is currently experiencing a revival and therefore publicly usable streetball and basketball courts are now once again in demand.
For both sports, suitable sports and exercise areas can easily be implemented. There is no need for elaborate sports complexes or plenty of space, and everything can be neatly combined in multi-purpose facilities. The athletes only need a basketball to play, you can have different numbers of players on a team and even single players will enjoy the challenge of trying to shoot some hoops themselves. Streetball and basketball courts can easily be integrated in many places: in backyards and outdoor facilities of housing estates, in parks, in combination with mini-pitches (without artificial turf), in school playgrounds or even in city centres. The familiar cage often associated with such facilities is not always mandatory, because unlike football, the ball is not kicked around vigorously. However, it is not a bad idea to have a net or ball stop fencing system installed behind the baskets, and if there are traffic routes etc. in the immediate vicinity, it might be worth considering having the whole court fenced off.
When building a streetball or basketball court, there are some important things to keep in mind. First and foremost, the athletes’ safety should be a priority. While this sport involves a lower risk of injury than football, players can still easily fall during tackles and often jump higher and take risks to score points. Accordingly, the flooring should provide good fall protection, minimizing injuries. In addition, it should meet the athletes’ requirements: it should ensure adequate and consistent ball bounce as well as force reduction and transmission, and it should be non-slip. Moreover, the flooring should be water-permeable, easily withstand direct sunlight, be weatherproof and durable, and ideally be as eco-friendly and climate-friendly as possible.
Synthetic surfaces are best suited for streetball and basketball courts as they meet all of these criteria. The requirements for the construction and properties of such surfaces are specified in DIN 18035-6. Since streetball and basketball courts are usually integrated into multi-purpose mini-pitches, this is what is known as a "multi-purpose surface". Usually, a type B water-permeable multi-purpose surface is used. It consists of a bound base layer (asphalt), a (PU-bonded) elastic base layer and a loose-fill top layer. The elastic and wear layers are relatively thick. In addition to DIN 18035-6, DIN EN 14877 is also relevant in terms of requirements.
Another increasingly important aspect for streetball and basketball courts, apart from safety and the requirements of the sport, is noise control. This, however, is not primarily a question of the noise made by the athletes, but rather the noise caused by the ball bouncing. Especially in densely populated neighbourhoods with corresponding noise levels, the constant thudding of the ball can be a major nuisance for residents, in particular if the vibrations can also be felt over the ground within a fairly large radius. However, these factors can be effectively mitigated early on in the construction and planning process. In addition, there should be signs indicating the times when the courts can be used.
It is also important that such courts are properly and regularly maintained once they have been built. In principle, synthetic courts are quite easy to maintain and not very susceptible to damage. Nevertheless, the surface should be cleaned from time to time or cleared of leaves in autumn so as not to jeopardize the safety of the athletes. For the same reason, any holes or edges that have formed should be repaired as soon as possible, the fastening and condition of the basketball hoops should be checked, and the courts should be closed off in snow and ice.
In order to meet the demand for more sports and exercise areas in our cities and municipalities, greater importance should be attached to the construction of outdoor streetball and basketball courts. The large number of variations of the game and the renewed popularity of these sports make them perfect recreational sports. Such courts can be easily incorporated into multi-use games areas and provide a good opportunity for children, young people and adults to engage in sports.