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College Basketball

Little Kid Basketball Is The Best Halftime Show

Little kids play basketball at The Palestra. Light brown court, red baseline. Purple and white teams, white team kid shooting against a purple team kid, it's a layup
Dan McQuade/Defector|

Yeah, I went courtside to watch the halftime show.

I remember the first time I bet on a little kids’ basketball game. I don’t remember everything about it, which is probably for the best, but I can say with certainty that the game happened at halftime of a Penn-Yale game in New Haven. I think there was a blue team and a yellow team. I am almost positive it was in 2002 (83-78 Yale), but it might have been 2003 (80-75 Penn). I remember who I bet: Dave Zeitlin, who still covers Penn sports as an associate editor at the Penn Gazette. And of course I remember the result: I won the bet. If I had to guess I picked the blue team. I think the final was 6-4.

Look, it’s been 20 years. I think I did pretty good to remember the important parts. I’m not going to call up James Jones—Yale’s coach then, and now—and ask him to check the archives. But not only did I win five bucks from my friend that day, I learned a valuable lesson: The best halftime show in sports is when little kids play basketball.

You may insert your own favorite sport in here if you’d like, but basketball is a sport that is exciting at all levels. The pros, college, AAU ball, high school and, yes, the version of it played by little kids. I was reminded of this when I got to see some little kid basketball last night when I attended a Big 5 doubleheader, a great Philly sports tradition, at Penn’s gym, The Palestra. It was great. All of Philadelphia’s basketball luminaries were in attendance: Joe Lunardi, Jim Lynam, Dick “Hoops” Weiss, the guys from this La Salle basketball podcast I listen to… you know, everyone. Even The Philadelphia Inquirer had a big crew there. The circa-1927 gym is a wonderful place to watch basketball, even if it does always seem to be hot enough in there to melt a basketball. I got to watch Temple beat La Salle and then St. Joe’s come back to beat Penn. It was not like old times. For example, I am pretty sure it was the first time I‘d ever heard “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)” or “Everytime We Touch” played at a Penn basketball game.

It was all pretty good, but my favorite part was halftime of the first game. Two teams came out. One was in purple, the other gray. They announced what school or youth team they were from, but I was not paying attention. I was busy texting Zeitlin, to tell him I was taking the purple team.

I have attended a lot of basketball games, and I have seen a lot of halftime shows. I have seen Red Panda multiple times. I’ve seen David and Dania do a quick change, as well as other competing costume change acts. I know The Amazing Sladek’s whole chair-stacking act. I have seen a number of circus acts, including German wheels and what I remember as two half-naked Eastern European men who balanced on each others’ shoulders; I have struggled to look this up, and I'm not sure how I would go about finding it. I have seen two people balance items on their chin; I prefer Amazing Tyler to Kevin Shiflett, though they’re both pretty good. I have also seen Steve Max, the professional Simon Says caller. How is his stage name not Simon?

Certainly, all of these acts were a perfectly pleasant way to spend a basketball halftime, especially when you see Red Panda ride a unicycle and kick some bowls into some other bowls. But none of the above does it for me like little kid basketball. It was just so fun to see these kids get to play on a college court. I am not even sure how old they were. I think they said they were 10. Let’s go with that. They were not making many shots—after all, they were 10! (Or possibly another age.) There were some airballed threes. But when one of the kids on the gray team hit a shot, the place went wild! People who weren’t in line for hot dogs or beer got to give all these little kids a real thrill. I’m sure the parents were just as excited.

But I don’t care about giving kids a thrill, really. I just want to see some ball, and they delivered on that front. The kids always seem so amped up, and these kids were absolutely maxed out. I love these games. There’s usually some kid whose nickname could either be “Gun” or “Brick.” Every shot gets cheered like it’s a game-winner. Sometimes a kid just dribbles it out of bounds while trying to do some kind of AND1 move (despite not knowing what AND1 is, most likely). I cannot get enough. It’s so much fun to watch a miniature version of it at halftime of an actual game. This is true even if you don’t bet on it—the gray team beat the purple team, 4-0, by my count, and so I will not be telling Dave he won the bet. Nobody show him this article.

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