Finding a basketball game to watch in the Norfolk, Va., area is a slam dunk. And finding a place to play basketball there is an alley-oop.
Figures from the Trust for Public Land, a nonprofit that promotes parks and other public spaces, indicate Norfolk lays up 406 public basketball hoops and 300 joint-use basketball hoops (at public schools for public use outside school hours). That adds up to 706 indoor and outdoor basketball hoops, or 28.2 hoops per 10,000 residents — tops among all U.S. cities.
Why does Norfolk sport so many basketball hoops?
In part, being bonkers about playing basketball could arise from the NBA’s popularity there. The Norfolk area was the highest-rated TV market for NBA games on ESPN and ABC during the 2018-19 regular season.
No doubt, that NBA fever helped spur the new Historical Basketball League to pick Norfolk as one of its eight inaugural U.S. markets. Targeted for a June 2020 launch, the league will pay college-level players — a fast break from the no-pay-for-play tradition of college basketball — and extend educational scholarships to them.
While the odds of the Norfolk area landing an NBA franchise are slim, some folks are rooting for it to happen. Sportscasting.com lists the region as one of 15 areas in North America that deserve an NBA expansion team, and SB Nation ranks it as one of 13 potential NBA expansion cities.
If it were to happen, the arrival of an NBA team in the Norfolk area would be years down the road. In the meantime, local fans might want to channel their basketball passion into traveling to one of the city’s heap of basketball hoops.
Here, we list the top six non-NBA cities for public access to basketball hoops, with Norfolk netting the No. 1 spot, based on the number of hoops per 10,000 residents. (Later, we’ll fill you in on which NBA cities are in the zone when it comes to basketball hoops.)
1. Norfolk, Virginia
Number of hoops: 706
Number of hoops per 10,000 residents: 28.2
This Virginia city is for lovers … of basketball! The nearest NBA team plays 200 miles away in Washington, D.C. But If someone’s in the mood to catch a game close to home, the region hosts the Hampton Roads Warriors, a semi-pro basketball team in the East Coast Basketball League. It also is home to the Hampton Roads 7 Cities Basketball Pro-Am, an NBA-style recreational basketball league for high school seniors.
In addition, four schools in the Norfolk area — Norfolk State University, Old Dominion University, the College of William & Mary and Hampton University — compete in Division I collegiate basketball. In the college ranks, the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference’s annual basketball tournament takes place every March at Norfolk Scope Arena; Norfolk State is a member of the conference.
Going back in time, the Virginia Squires of the now-defunct American Basketball Association took the court in Norfolk and neighboring cities from 1970 to 1976. NBA legends Julius Erving and George Gervin launched their pro careers with the Squires.
2. Madison, Wisconsin
Number of hoops: 275 (and the city’s recreation department helps you find them with an interactive map)
Number of hoops per 10,000 residents: 10.6.
3. Laredo, Texas
Number of hoops: 256
Number of hoops per 10,000 residents: 9.5
4. Cincinnati, Ohio
Number of hoops: 275
Number of hoops per 10,000 residents: 8.9
5. Lincoln, Nebraska
Number of hoops: 252
Number of hoops per 10,000 residents: 8.8
6. Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Number of hoops: 189
Number of hoops per 10,000 residents: 8.1
Top NBA Cities for Public Hoops
As for the six top NBA cities for public basketball hoops, only one of them beats the top six non-NBA cities. Here’s how the competition shapes up among NBA cities.
1. Irvine, California (Los Angeles Lakers and LA Clippers)
Number of hoops: 478
Number of hoops per 10,000 residents: 17.7
2. Arlington, Virginia (Washington Wizards)
Number of hoops: 178
Number of hoops per 10,000 residents: 7.8
3. St. Paul, Minnesota (Minnesota Timberwolves)
Number of hoops: 236
Number of hoops per 10,000 residents: 7.7
4. Plano, Texas (Dallas Mavericks)
Number of hoops: 214
Number of hoops per 10,000 residents: 7.3
5. Cleveland, Ohio (Cleveland Cavaliers)
Number of hoops: 230
Number of hoops per 10,000 residents: 6.0
6. Washington, D.C. (Washington Wizards)
Number of hoops: 404
Number of hoops per 10,000 residents: 5.9