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R.J. Hampton’s Childhood Home Basketball Court Was Quite Popular in His Neighborhood

Josh Cohen
Digital News Manager

ORLANDO - One of my favorite things to do when I was a kid growing up in New Jersey, particularly in the summer when the weather was warm, was play basketball on driveway hoops. I lived in an apartment, so I didn’t have one. But some of my friends did, and we would meet up after school or first thing in the morning on weekends and play on those portable and adjustable glass-backboard hoops for hours, sometimes all the way until it was too dark to see the hoop or even the ball itself.

It was a blast, and because we were at someone’s home, we were able to always stay hydrated by grabbing drinks from the fridge. When a break was needed, we were just a few feet away from turning the video game consoles on or popping a movie into the VCR (yes, that was once the way).

There was one drawback, though. We only had one hoop per home to play on. I liked playing half-court games, so I rarely requested we go to a park or a gym to play full court. But, sometimes, I admit, it got a little crowded on the driveway, or occasionally street, when we tried playing four-on-four, or even three-on-three games.

That was not a problem for now Orlando Magic guard R.J. Hampton during his youth. He had a full-court setup with two hoops on a red concrete surface in the backyard of his Texas childhood home.

It was there where he spent much of his time working on his skills, practicing his moves, and simulating in-game situations.

“That would be me. I would be out until the wee of the morning – three, two, one (and) if I missed it, start over,” he recalls. “That was something I loved to do as a kid – watching NBA games on TV and then running out to the backyard and trying to imitate what they were doing. I’m glad my parents had that for me growing up.”

Funny about Hampton’s home court was that many of the kids in that neighborhood thought it was a public court and would play on it themselves.

“I lived so far from all my friends, so I would mainly be out there by myself. But there was a church right next to my house, and I guess the kids, because we had a lot of land, didn’t know it was the house’s basketball court. They thought it was part of the church,” he said. “So, I would wake up in the morning and there would be fifteen to twenty kids on my court. And I would go wake my parents up (and tell them), and they would be like go play with them. It was cool.”

I asked some of the Magic players recently whether they preferred playing basketball indoors or outdoors growing up, and the responses were mixed. What Wendell Carter Jr., who preferred an indoor gym, noticed as a teenager was that guards usually favored playing outside while centers and power forwards like himself generally sided with an indoor gym.

Franz Wagner, although a bit indecisive on this one, leaned towards playing indoors, although it’s partially because in Germany where he grew up there weren’t many outdoor basketball courts to select from. Also, he lived in an apartment, so a driveway basket wasn’t an option.

“It’s always fun to play with your friends outside just hoopin’, without coaches. That’s super cool, too,” he said. “But then your hands will get dirty and stuff like that. Bad weather in Berlin sometimes, too. Also, the outside courts unfortunately aren’t as nice as over here. I always enjoyed shooting on a real basket.”