There is a story behind every backyard basketball hoop in America.
"Nothing But Net"You better hit nothing but net shooting at this hoop. Just one of the many hoops that I have photographed over the years.
Over fifteen years ago, photographer David Liam Kyle began looking for those stories wherever he went. Today, Kyle – a former professional basketball player and nationally acclaimed photojournalist – has assembled those shots in his Classic Hoop Collection, an album containing outdoor backboards and rims attached to everything from weathered barns to ivy-strewn oak trees.
Tales of success, loss, redemption and togetherness are attached to every backboard. “I have discovered so many cool-looking hoops and so many amazing stories behind them,” says Kyle, who himself was an All-American
basketball player at Cleveland State University.
Kyle’s first backyard hoop photo was shot while he was on an unrelated newspaper assignment in Northeast Ohio. As he was walking up the back stairs to a house, he spotted an old, rusty rim and backboard attached to a shed. He had no reason to photograph it, other than that it was interesting.
“I grabbed a couple of shots and didn’t think much of it,” Kyle says. But when he examined the photos, Kyle – whose own love of the game can be traced to the outdoor hoop at his childhood home in Cleveland’s Old Brooklyn neighborhood – wanted to know more. So he went back to the house and talked to the homeowner, a man in his 80s.
“They had four boys, and the kids used to play for hours,” Kyle says. “They put up the hoop when the oldest son was about 12 years old. So you can imagine how much use this hoop saw over the years.”
Kyle’s collection includes hoops on playgrounds, in fields, on barns, on garages and even a few in gymnasiums. He admits favoring old-school “man-made” hoops over those that are prefabricated. Perhaps that comes from his own childhood experience, when he first learned to shoot at a hoop and backboard his oldest brother, Don, fashioned out of a bunch of leftover two-by-fours.
The hoop was functional, but not a thing of beauty. “My brother,” Kyle says with a laugh, “was not particularly handy."