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The Midnight Basketball league dunks on crime

By Reagan Liu Nov. 10, 2022

Lyn Kang Art

The echoing thumps of basketballs signal a gathering in the apartment basketball courts, inviting people of all ages to compete in friendly games. With cheering spectators, bustling food trucks and intense gameplay, these nights serve as one of the few bonding opportunities for neighbors, friends and families in less affluent neighborhoods in the Bay Area.

The street basketball culture is a cornerstone in many communities. Particularly in impoverished neighborhoods, the involvement of youth in recreational sports takes on the crucial role of building safe spaces for kids. Studies show that sports such as basketball effectively keep youth from gang activity and crime, according to The New York Times. Because basketball is a sport built on trust, The New York Times claims that the games build bonds between teammates that players would otherwise develop in gangs.

“Not only do team sports allow kids to be active and learn friendly competition, but they also promote a safe community for them to be a part of outside of school. Programs such as these are critical to youth development,” Junior Ryan Azuma said.

Founded in 1986 by G. Van Standifer, the National Association of Midnight Basketball has established 50 chapters around the country in the hopes of bringing youth together through the love of basketball. As a former city official of Glenarden, Maryland, Standifer noticed that during late hours, teenagers more frequently engaged in crime, drug usage and violence. He felt a recreational basketball league active at night could help combat the delinquency he witnessed rampant among youth in the city. Research conducted by Northeastern University’s Center for the Study of Sport in Society revealed that cities with midnight basketball programs had greater reductions in property crime rates than other cities. Despite the initial success, a lack of federal funding led to the program’s decline, with a majority of chapters shutting down by 2004.

Since then, a few cities have reopened their chapters, most notably in Oakland. Oakland maintains one of the highest crime rates in the country, with NBC ranking it the eighth riskiest American city to live in. However, midnight basketball programs aim to provide youths with a safer experience to socialize. By opening gyms at night to invite players to practice and compete in games, the National Association of Midnight Basketball hopes to fight youth gang activity. Furthermore, Oakland chapter organizers have made agreements with local gang leaders that these gyms are to be safe havens from violence, according to Sports Illustrated.

The league does not only focus on young players; different divisions invite athletes of all ages to compete in games. The league operates in a tournament style: teams are drafted and named before being scheduled to play matches against one another.

The Midnight Basketball program also provides many opportunities and resources outside of team sports, including an array of educational services such as counseling, interview training, employment opportunities, paths to higher education and financial aid for college. The initiative also offers college scholarships and maintains steady involvement in the community to help build better futures for underprivileged youth.


About the Contributors

Reagan Liu

entertainment & student spotlight page editor

Reagan Liu is a senior at Leland High school and a page editor at the Leland Charger Account. He loves music and listens to many different genres of music in his free time. He never skips a meal and consumes all the nutrients needed to stay healthy.

Lyn Kang


Hyunsuh Kang is a sophomore at Leland High School and an artist for The Charger Account. During her free time, she enjoys sleeping, eating, and playing with his friends.

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