Bobbito’s #DoinItInThePark Reps #NYC Ball — #MadeInNY

doin it in the park

Kevin Couliau and Bobbito Garcia, the brains behind Doin’ It in the Park: Pick-Up Basketball, New York City, met in 2004; but it’s safe to say the two ballers were kindred spirits long before they knew each other existed. Born and raised in Nantes, on the west coast of France, Kevin “Behind The Scenes” Couliau began playing basketball at a young age, though he admits he doesn’t know why, as his father was a soccer player; his brother, a skateboarder. His affinity for the game, though, grew as a result of playing organized ball at a club in his hometown.

Bobbito “Kool Bob Love” Garcia is a product of Harlem, New York. From an era before kids traded in their gym shoes for joysticks, Bobbito was takin’ it to the hoops on the New York City streets. In the late 70’s, it was hard not to find a game of pick-up basketball happening just about anywhere, and that meant everywhere. And, if you knew where to look, you might just catch a glimpse of Dr. J hangin’ out above the rim, James “Fly” Williams makin’ it rain, Pee Wee Kirkland achieving legendary status or Earl Manigault simply being the “Greatest Of All Time.”

From the city park playgrounds to the schoolyards to the streets, with a real basketball hoop, a bottomed-out milk crate, or a metal garbage can… roundball battles could be found spilling their colors into a mix already made vibrant by artistic graf art and the then burgeoning sounds of Rhythmic American Poetry.

Pick-up basketball was, and is, as much a part of New York City’s lore as Madison Square Garden and Hip Hop. And, in that city is where the two first time filmmakers would meet, and eventually, tell the story of a game created for indoor play by a Canadian, remixed for outdoors by New Yorkers, morphing it into the theatrical performance it is now on the world stage; professional and otherwise.

Six years after their introduction, the two friends would set out on a mission which would celebrate their favorite pastime, and all but guarantee them a secure spot in the annals of basketball history. After seeing a Pete Rock and Red Cafe video that Kevin had directed and edited, Bobbito knew exactly who he’d team up with to tell the story of NYC playground basketball. Two summers and 180 playgrounds later, the two basketball lovers-cum-filmmakers would release what, in this writer’s opinion, is the yardstick by which all street basketball documentaries should forever be measured. Equipped with a basketball, a camera, their bicycles, their determination and, most importantly, their love of the game, this dynamic two took to the streets of the Big Apple to create an in-depth film about the origins and evolution of the game.

Now, in 2013, only one year after its debut, the film has achieved cult status. The footage of street legends and NBA players alike mesmerizes audiences, often to the point of uproarious applause when a player unleashes bits and pieces from his, or her, bag o’ tricks on an ill-prepped defender.

With a solid year of screenings and press tours under their belts, I approached the interview with a bit of trepidation. What could I possibly ask them about the project that they hadn’t heard a million times, in nearly as many languages?


kev and bob in gray


YRB Magazine: You met in 2004 as a result of Bob publishing Kevin’s work, a letter and photo of a friend dunking, in the reader’s corner of Bounce Magazine. Considering all the contacts that either of you had made over the years, why was this the relationship that lead to the making of Doin’ It In The Park?

Bobbito: I saw a music video that Kevin directed for Pete Rock and Red Cafe called “Heart & Soul Of New York City” and it blew my mind! Kevin and I had known each other for about six years by then, so I knew then that he was who I should work on this project with.

YRB: You both grew up playing B-ball. Bob on the NYC playgrounds, Kevin in an organized environment. With the exception of your home courts, what’s the first court that comes to mind that you visited during filming?

Kevin: Morningside & 118th is where I got to experience NYC playground basketball for the first time, it was in 2004 and I also discovered the game of 21. We played with Bobbito and some local kids that were calling me “Air France”, I ended up winning that game!

Bobbito: There are seven hundred courts in the city and we visited 180 to make our film. They all come to mind! Every court was an experience. Narrowing it down would be impossible.

YRB: I’m glad you answered that way. Considering the hours of footage you have, from so many courts,  why did you open the film with that particular scene on the King Towers court in Harlem?

Kevin: The opening scene of Doin’ It In The Park is a recap of what Bobbito and I witnessed while shooting the film. In this 3 minutes piece you have every aspects of the culture. From the trash talking to the money exchange with a lot of comedy. The spontaneity of New York Basketball.

YRB: There is a picture, during the opening collage, of firefighters working on a burning building, people from the neighborhood staring up at them, then a pan down to show 4 kids seemingly oblivious to the destruction happening in the background because they’re playing ball. What did you think when you first saw this picture?

Kevin: We spent a lot of times searching for archives, asking to people or online. I found this specific photo on the NY Times website, as a basketball nerd, I jumped out of my seat when I saw this picture. Seems that however chaotic is the situation in your neighborhood, basketball love will always have the final word.

YRB: Any other visuals give yo that sense of the magnitude of the sport?

Kevin: We recently posted this well known and stunning photo of basketball in the Philippines on our website. I think it might be hard to find a stronger photo than this one. It goes love and dedication.

YRB: There’s a clip in the behind-the-scenes footage where there was a minor altercation during the filming. Were there any places where objections to filming became an issue?

Bobbito: We secured necessary releases from everyone featured on camera. We also had general releases posted when people entered the parks. We had to get permission from the local drug dealer or park mayor for a couple of courts in Brooklyn, but everywhere else, it was open arms.

YRB: Drug dealer permission in Brooklyn… You gotta love how crazy that sounds! I’ll still never be ashamed to call it home. While we’re on “that” subject, you filmed a pick-up game in the yard at Riker’s Detention Center. This, to me, was a powerful image. Why was it necessary to document that?

Bobbito: Inmates at Riker’s are New Yorkers, too. Incarceration doesn’t halt their love for the game. We wanted to give them a voice, and humanize their experience.

bobbito park playing

YRB: It’s often said that there are no original ideas, yet, you’ve created a piece of history, which I feel has no immediate relatives. Why do you think this aspect of the game had been neglected until you decided to bring it to life?

Bobbito: That would be a question for other directors and filmmakers. Pick-up basketball is the common denominator of the sport. Everyone plays it whether you’re Lebron, President Obama  or the biggest scrub in your neighborhood. I was happy that no one had ever documented it in New York, and it was an honor for me and Kevin to present such a tradition of culture and community to the world.

YRB: I feel the film fully captures the essence of NYC playground basketball. Now that you’ve shown the phenomenon to kids around the world, are there any plans to document playground basketball in other countries? There’s definitely a buzz worthy of such a sequel…

Kevin: While traveling to the six continents to screen the film, I’ve been photographing (more so than video) the experience and pick-up basketball in many places. Our goal is to make a sequel of the film but in the shape of a book that would explore the impact of pick-up basketball on the world. After visiting countries such as the Philippines, China, Mexico or Africa both Bobbito and I witnessed the universality of basketball.

YRB: A little more than 3 years after beginning the project, especially considering this was a first for both of you (filmmaking and doubly documentary filmmaking),what’s been most memorable about the journey?

Bobbito: The most memorable moment may not have happened yet. 10, 20, 30 years down the line when the film is still relevant, and is spoken in the same breath with Style Wars and Dogtown and Z Boys (in our best hope), that may be the most memorable.

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