About Shooting Hoops
Hi, I'm Thai Neave, the former ESPN anchor who turned his back on the so-called dream job to follow my creative passions. Yep, once upon a time I had the prestigious, high-paying media job most men could only fantasize about. But, it wasn't my dream. So, I turned my back on 12 years of broadcast journalism to start Shooting Hoops.
Shooting Hoops has taken me all over the world, from Mongolia to Cuba to Iceland to Japan. But the truth is I didn't set out on a quest to shoot all these amazing courts. Like many great things in life, it kinda just happened. It started at the famed West 4th Court in New York City. As you probably know, they call this court 'The Cage'. It's like no other court I've found. Games are fast. Players are tough. Trash talk is loud. And the court is so small that it feels like all of Manhattan are watching. After playing there in 2002, I didn't go back for many years. And when I returned, I now carried a camera instead of a ball.
I took a single shot standing directly below the hoop. I didn't think much about it at the time, but a few months later I snapped a photo of a different hoop poking out of a snow storm. Soon after, I took another on a rainy day. Without really being aware of it, suddenly I couldn't walk past a court or a playground or a hoop without stopping to photograph it. At the time, I was working as an ESPN SportsCenter Anchor in Bristol Connecticut.
That position was quite a big deal, especially for somebody so young (I was 29 years old). I was making tons of money. I was interviewing massive sports stars. I was working alongside NBA legends such as Magic Johnson, Jalen Rose and Chris Mullin. I was sitting courtside at NBA games. I was even hanging with the players in the locker rooms. And yet... it just wasn't me. Yes, it was a dream job. But it wasn't my dream. I felt like a fraud.
I longed to explore my creativity. What I loved to do most was wander through the city hunting for street courts. Instead of wearing a suit and tie and getting caked with makeup to host my program, I felt more inspired behind the camera taking photos of these often neglected courts and the characters who played on them.
Instead of mixing with NBA superstars and other media personalities, I actually preferred capturing the rawness of streetballers. These guys didn't play for money or fame. They balled for respect and a genuine love of the game. Don't get me wrong, I love the NBA. But streetball has my heart.
Playing outdoors, hooping with strangers that become friends, and competing as if there is nothing more important in the world, is one of the greatest highs I have found.
Put simply, streetball has soul. And what I am looking to capture in my art is the true essence of the game. I'm after that feeling you get when you first looked up at a hoop and imagined making that game-winning shot. I'm trying to find that hope, that joy, that glee, that passion and that fire.
To this day, long removed from my days at ESPN, I still wrestle with my insatiable ambition. Like many of you, I work too hard, take on too many projects, and fry in overstimulation. The remedy for all of this is often to simply give myself permission to play. Often, it means putting down my camera and picking up a ball instead. Truthfully, these are my favourite moments. When I can be in the scene instead of just watch it. The courts always have a way of reminding me what is truly: Community. Movement of body. Creativity. And above all, childlike play.
I always say that that many photographers could have taken many of the images you find on this site. But they didn't. In order for me to do it, I walked through rain, hail, snow storms and below freezing conditions to capture them. Shooting Hoops is a labor of love. Truly, deeply, from the bottom of my being, I love this beautiful game. Hopefully you see it in my work and having a photo on your wall reminds you of the kid still inside you. Watch the video below to learn more about my journey and feel free to reach out simply to say hi and share your story. Much love, Thai. A.K.A ShootingHoops