Basketball has become a global sport in the
past 40 years, but Indiana (and the Midwest) remains the Old School Mecca, while New York City claims to be the street
capitol of the game. Portville hoops had more of a Midwestern style during the 60s and 70s.
Starting in 1967, I began tagging along with my dad and
uncles to the PCS elementary gym for Adult Basketball. Keeping score on Mr. Dorman's chalkboard, I watched guys
like Jim Snyder, Lance Chaffee, Dave Perry, Jud Bailey, the Dibbles, Boyce McDivitt, Benny Reynolds, Jerry Scutt, and many
others go at it in tight shorts and knee braces.
These events occurred every winter on Tuesday or Wednesday evenings and sometimes in the high school gym. Once
in a while, the guys would play at the old Main Street school, when it was a hotel. It was a strange, dusty atmosphere,
but I got a sense of what Lee Frair, Ike Harrison, Bob Kordish, and Wimpy Swetland experienced in the 30s, 40s, and 50s.
I do not recall
any outdoor courts existing in Portville during the 60s and 70s, except for the baskets on the school tennis courts.
As a result, community street ball did not exist in the town. Kids and adults played in the school, at home, or in barns.
Some ventured to Bonas or Olean for various leagues.
Around 1980, an outdoor court was built for the Main Street Youth Sports Complex. This boon attracted
kids and hoopsters from all over the town and beyond. During my college years in the 80s, I spent alot of time
playing with dudes like Mike Jordan, Bill Fowler, the Cayas, John Milne, Jon Gardner, Al Whitcher, and others.
Most of the time, I was the only one there though.
It was a far cry from what I was experiencing at Ohio University. It was there that I discovered the world
of Street Ball from 1979-83. The school had one whole gym with 5 full courts dedicated to pick-up basketball noon to
midnight. A dozen outdoor courts dotted the campus as well, and the competition was way beyond WNY high school.
It was hoops heaven for players.
Because most of the players were black or from the city, I was introduced to a new culture and higher level of hoops
(a term that wasn't even used at the time). "Nothing but Net" was known as a "bust", which had
replaced "twick" and "swish". Nobody played as "shirts and skins"... players wore
whatever they wanted and were expected to recognize who was on their team.
Round Ball Stories I