Our Stories

We Got Next: Playing Hoops and Transforming Lives

This weekend’s NBA All-Star Game is a reminder of the transformational power of basketball, and the many ways LISC promotes access to a sport that sparks opportunity and helps heal communities all across the country.

This year’s NBA All-Star Weekend has us thinking about the power and beauty of the game. For all the fun of watching world-class athletes, rising stars and celebrities showcase their tremendous talent in Chicago, we also know that basketball is a serious vehicle for change and growth—at the individual level, and for entire communities.

Hoops in the Hood, a program LISC Chicago has supported for 14 years, is about as good an example of basketball’s transformative potential as you can get. Every year, LISC collaborates with 17 neighborhoods to host the summer basketball league, embracing more than 30,000 youth and community members.

Games are often played in places known to be crime hotspots, but when Hoops is up and running, there’s no violence. Kids build positive relationships and valuable skills. Hundreds of residents and fans attend the games that are played, literally, on the streets of their neighborhoods. The program, which gets crucial funding from State Farm, “is a way to make people see there are positive things happening in the community,” says Alex Anaya, executive director of ABC Pilsen, a community athletic program that partners with LISC. To see Hoops in the Hood—and its extraorinary impact—in action, check out the video below.

We also see the game working its magic through our partner, the RVA League for Safer Streets, a basketball-plus-education program for young men from Richmond, VA communities with high crime rates. The League has had a profound peace-making impact in the lives of participants—and on the city at large, lowering the crime rate by some eight percent according to city leaders.

Its founders, both formerly incarcerated, shaped the program from their experience and insight wrought by decades behind bars. Which is why the League is dedicated to keeping people out of prison, and helping those who are returning to become successful members of their communities. Our grants, with support from the Walmart Foundation Diversity & Inclusion Fund, together with a LISC AmeriCorps member have helped the RVA League become a 501c3 and hold the games, like the one in the photo above, that are working to heal a community.

Students at Democracy Prep in Harlem playing on their school's court, recently renovated through the LISC/ESPN Home Court program.
Students at Democracy Prep in Harlem playing on their school's court, recently renovated through the LISC/ESPN Home Court program.

And LISC partners with ESPN through the Home Court program to equip non-profit neighborhood organizations, middle schools and high schools with financing and technical assistance to improve the quality, safety and accessibility of local basketball courts. Since the program started, we’ve invested $575,000 to renovate 25 courts in neighborhoods across the country.

Enjoy the game!

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