If you don’t like urban basketball stay away from the “GL Arena.” Urban basketball or “ball in the ‘hood” is legendary. In 2008, “Father’s of the Sport” was featured at the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles. It was a remarkable presentation of the great outdoor basketball sites scattered across the United States. The Goodman League is played right in the hood of D.C., in the community of Anacostia. Barry Farms is a community where working-class folk have raised their families for years. Inside Barry Farms is (was) the housing development or more specifically, “the projects.” Adjacent the projects is where the Goodman League made a home for itself. It is right next door to the Barry Farms Recreation Center. The league is a testament to endurance and creativity as players from across the region enjoy competing on the big stage. The man behind the action is Miles Rawls. In addition to being the league commissioner he also doubles up as the game announcer. He has his own style and when partnered with the DJ who spins soundtracks during the play – one of his favorites is when the referee signals a traveling violation – you will hear R Kelly’s “step, step” beat blare from the speakers.
I was fortunate to catch the championship games which were played Monday, Aug. 26, 2019. Prior to my trip I had contacted the league public relations staff and was informed league play would be complete by the time I hit DC. Part of our trek always includes visiting Anacostia, I simply was okay to try and get some shots of the demolished projects against the backdrop of the Washington Monument.
To my surprise the championship game was slated. Miles was in control as he welcomed the overflowing crowd to the “GL Arena.” They were right at home as the catering truck along with those who were providing food from their booths were busy dishing out community favorites from fried chicken wings to sauteed lamb chops and much more. GL beer was available for the mighty sum of one buck. Even though urban life has it challenges and project life is not for the weak or feeble, what makes the Goodman League standout is the love and respect the community has for the quality of play. It was definitely a community affair as young and old, male and female came out to support their crown jewel. The crowd eventually swelled to around 1,500 by the time I had to depart for another engagement. You could tell the regulars who came prepared with their customized lawn chairs which allowed them “court-side” seating. The venue is second to none as the courts are well maintained. Even though the projects have been demolished and thousands have been forced to relocate the next chapter of the Goodman League is being discussed.