Especially since Argentina is not a total stranger to the sport. In 2004, Argentina won the Olympic gold in basketball. They beat Italy, and USA was third. So there must be some type of spike in popularity since then. However, I struggled in my search and nearly lost hope in finding any shred of a sign of basketball existing in Buenos Aires.
My search consisted of googling “basketball court in Buenos Aires”. Led me to a website called www.CourtsOfTheWorld.com where users can mark a location on a shared geo map where they found a court to play. I also used Trip Advisor and Yelp. I noted addresses of shared locations from various forums and the courts website. Using the hostels wifi I dropped a few pins on my Apple maps before stepping outside. Outside, where there’s only airplane mode.
I had my map loaded with 3 pins visible, scattered in 2 different neighborhoods a bit north of my place in Monserrat, a neighborhood in central BA. My pins were 1 at Recoleta, and 2 in Palermo. Both very chic neighborhoods of BA, just north of me by a couple miles.
I took line C on the Subte (BA’s Metro) which only costs 7.50 pesos per ride (about $0.60USD) headed north for Recoleta. I explored until I settled on top of my first pin. I only found a park, no basketball court. There was a small half size court with makeshift futbol goals on each side. No basketball hoops were in sight. Stop number 1, lies.
After descending once more underground to the metro, I took line D and popped my head out in Palermo. My 2 pins were walking distance apart, and I was let down 2 more times. I came across nothing resembling a court. Spent a few hours trekking around the city to find plenty of parks and no basketball. These forums online and the insanity of their claims; how dare they.
Day 1 was a fail.
I repeated this process the following day, this time with a buddy I met at the hostel. He had some ideas too; he had 1 boxing gym & 1 full amenity gym which claimed to have a basketball court, both pinned in his maps. Well let me tell you how that went.
We arrived at the boxing gym, which was open-aired to the street and seemed to have some serious blood n sweat shed over the years. I was opened to changing it up, we could do some sparring for a bit rather than basketball. Fine with me. We practiced the phrase ‘Is it possible to rent boxing gloves here’ in Spanish before arriving. Had that phrase locked and loaded. We received a swift no, kicked some pebbles around with our feet in despair, and continued to the gym that had according to their website claims of an indoor basketball court.
The 30 minute walk gave us plenty of time to openly discuss all types of scenarios about ‘what if..’ ‘if only..’ etc. As we arrived, we yet again had a version of that phrase in our back pocket ready to go at the reception.
‘Is it possible to play basketball here’?
This place seemed promising. It had size, multiple floors, even a place to swipe your membership card. We were willing and ready to pay the fee for a daily pass.
After exhausting our one known phrase in Spanish, I whipped out the gringish Portuguese hoping to make myself understood enough to the front desk lady. Verbally tripping over foreign accents across 2 different languages, my friend and I somehow interpreted the words being spoken. They have a court, but it’s closed. Indefinitely. They pointed to it and around the corner I saw a large dark room filled with random equipment and furniture scattered across the court. This, was disheartening.
I decided to give up. Not sure why it is so hard to find a court in such a big city, and not sure why they don’t exist here given the growing popularity.
A couple days later, Sunday morning I was sifting through my iPhone photos. I came across a screenshot of a Yelp webpage with an address. The title of it was “Cancha de Basquet”. That means basketball court. I snapped this screenshot a week before and forgot about it.
I decided to give it one last shot. If it was another dead end, I resolved to give up the search and stop wasting any more time. Once more I packed my backpack with some pesos and a water bottle, and began the journey by metro. The dropped pin and supposed outdoor court was just outside of station ‘Primera Junta’ on line A headed west.
I peak out of the stairs as I climbed to ground level, and walk one block to arrive on top of the pin. I turned the corner and I don’t see anything, but I hear that sound of multiple basketballs being bounced on pavement. That sound is followed by that unique noise of a backboard being smacked, along with a rim being abused by a lack of ‘nothing but net’ swishes. One after another, close together, signifying that it’s quite possible there’s a decent size group warming up about to start a game.
I approach the court and noticed that I was the only non-local. On the court there was about 10 Asians and 10 more sitting on the surrounding benches. All who were natives speaking only Spanish. So apparently they weren’t Asians.
It was either sit and watch and choose not to make an attempt to communicate, or drop my backpack and walk up grabbing the next rebound and start shooting around. I chose the latter, and in doing so led to 3 hours of Sunday morning full-court basketball, sweating it out with locals who only knew how to speak English in certain popular catch phrases.
We swapped in and out, took part in 5 games to 21 by 1s & 2s, and learned not much more about ourselves other than what city and country each other are from. I gained some gringo respect from some pretty cool guys that Sunday morning.
They even made some jokes about themselves. Them knowing that gringos think they all look the same, they used that against me. Midway through the game they changed their tone and seemed like they were talking about me, or planning something specific. I just figured I’m going to keep doing my thing, keep using my average US height as above average Asian height and make some shots. I don’t know what they are saying, but it’s all good in the BA hood.
Suddenly, one guy from the opposite team, unbeknownst to me, held his hands up for a pass as he was open. I threw it to him because yeah, they all did look the same, and these kind of looks for an open man happen in split seconds. Especially confusing with all their Jeremy Lin and Lebron James jerseys. So he gets it, and I instantly realize he is not my team, so I let out a nice strong scream. Every last one of em had a big laugh about it, so big that after the guy ran it down court for a layup we had a temporary timeout to laugh at the gringos mess up.
This little trick is common in pickup games, but given the unique situation the humor of the outcome was amplified.
But these guys were cool, I got some pats on the back and we kept on playing. I’m just going to end it at that because that was a good time playing some Sunday morning ball in Argentina.
Glad I made that final search for a basketball court in Buenos Aires.
Going to be/already in Buenos Aires? Want to play? Here is the address:
1405 Buenos Aires
From city center: Take the train headed west to estacion Caballito. from the train station exit you will see the court.
Or take the Metro (called Subte in BA) A line headed west to estacion Primera Junta. From there locate the street right in front called Rojas, and walk towards the train tracks. Can’t miss seeing the train tracks, and hearing the train since it’s just outside the metro station.