Inside The Gates

Elton Hayes | 8/20/2012, 11:19 p.m.

Barry Farm Basketball Courts are a National Treasure

Although the game didn't begin for a couple of hours, you wouldn't know it. An endless stream of spectators made their way to Barry Farm's Goodman League basketball courts well before tipoff in the hopes of snagging a good seat for the evening's playoff action.

Some arrived by cars and on sports bikes; others made the short walk from nearby homes and those on public transportation trekked over from the Anacostia Metro Station, located right across the street. But while everyone's method of getting to the courts varied, one constant remained: they all came to watch and enjoy some of the area's most exciting basketball.

"You never know who you're going to see," said Natalie Jones, 27, who lives in Southeast. "I like the fact that the games are in the summertime and in the evening. You see some great people who enjoy the sport, who are giving back to the neighborhood and who are showing their talent and skills to the next generation of ballers."

Founded in 1975, the George Goodman basketball league has always been highly regarded for producing some of the region's more talented basketball teams and players. But the league has flourished and gained widespread acclaim under the direction of league commissioner and color commentator Miles Rawls.

Eighteen teams comprise the league, or "The Gates" as it's called by many and it has attracted professional basketball players such as Oklahoma City Thunder star and Seat Pleasant native Kevin Durant and former Washington Wizard point guard Gilbert Arenas, both of whom dazzled fans and players with their skills on the court.

League playoffs began last week and featured youth basketball games on Sunday, August 12. Amateur Athletic Union [AAU] Team Dynasty head coach Ronnie Brooks brought his group of 13-14-year-old players to the Goodman courts on Sunday to play against the Barry Farm Recreation youth team.

"For them, being able to play down here means the world," said Brooks, 45, who lives in Northeast. "For me, this takes me back to when I was young. I grew up in D.C. and this is how we played. I'm trying to give them a piece of history. With them playing out here, I'm hoping that it gives them confidence in the classroom and in life, so that when they're in any environment, they will be able to adjust."

Brooks' strategy seemed to work as his team overcame a rough start to earn a victory. Dynasty forward Christopher Larkins is no stranger to the hallowed basketball courts. He's played on it before, but said it took him a little while to shake off the nervous jitters and settle down.

"The first time I played here, it was intimidating," said Larkins, 13. "But after I played a couple of games I got used to it. I enjoy playing on this court and against the competition and in front of the crowd."

The action off of the Nike-sponsored basketball court almost rivals the high-energy action on the courts. It quickly becomes apparent that league games offer more than just good basketball; they also double as a social event. Almost everyone who enters the gates seems to know each other. A two-minute walk to a seat on the aluminum bleachers can easily stretch to 20 minutes, because spectators stop to slap hands and acknowledge the shouts and calls from friends.

The unmistakable aroma of fried foods permeated the air as chicken wings and french fries crackled and sizzled in Keaneth Newton's three large aluminum fish fryers. Newton says that he's served as the league's unofficial chef for as long as he can remember, and wouldn't have it any other way.

"I love giving back to the community," said Newton, 45. "I love to see the kids, teenagers and the adults," the Southeast resident said.