Many professional athletes find a name for themselves in their sport from starting at the very bottom. Learning and finessing their sport outside of the professional environment, where anything goes, and there’s no association to tell them what they can and can’t do. In the world of basketball, the very bottom of playing the sport is in streetball – an amateur version of the game that is played out on the city streets by those who have a passion for the game like no other. Streetball tends to be an unorganised, unique take on the sport of basketball, but there are tournaments out there to showcase this amateur side of the game and give players the chance to showcase what they can do. Quai54 is an annual gathering in Paris, France to showcase the Nike x Jordan World Streetball Championships. When Nike invited us out to Paris to check it out, I couldn’t refuse. Unfortunately I’ve lost the majority of my coverage of both Q54 and the Jordan 30 year anniversary celebrations. Memories remain, but apologies for the lack of coverage.
The French rap pumps through the speakers as the Parisian sun beats down on the 10 men battling it out on the court in the iconic Place de la Concorde. It’s Latvia vs France in this game, an instalment in the tournament alongside other global competitors including two teams from USA (Chi-town and Rucker Park), another from France, Midnight Madness from the UK, Guinea, Spain, Croatia, Netherlands, Belgium and China. A true global affair, in a global city. It’s the perfect location, for the perfect tournament. Passion for the game is evident through all the blood, sweat and tears that these guys put out on to the court to become Q54 champions. An accomplishment like no other in streetball. The fans, they know this. Celebrating every basket like the last, and vibing to the music and atmosphere that sends waves through the French capital. Passers-by stop to see what’s going on, but they have no idea. This is Quai54. And if you know, you know.
Fans eyes are fixated on to the court as they watch players contest every shot, leap for every rebound, and drive towards the basket to edge their way towards the next round. With the Eiffel Tower in view, the French hip-hop blasting, and the Q54 limited edition sneakers on their feet, the players know where they are. But all that means nothing when they’re competing. It’s a game of basketball, and that’s a universal language that anyone in the sport understands. No matter where you’re from, or where you’re playing. The stage is set, and these international ballers have come to play hard.
I’ve seen plenty of basketball in my time, but this tournament felt different. It wasn’t the professional game, and it wasn’t a local pick-up game. Q54 oozes in coolness. A true beacon in the French black community and culture. It boasts a constant sense of positivity, togetherness and community. Of talent, athleticism and passion. Of sport and music joining to become one in bringing people together of all races and nationalities to celebrate hard work. To celebrate a love for the game. To celebrate that ball is life.
If you have a love for the game of basketball as much as I do, Quai54 is a must visit. Paris is a short train journey away, and a beautiful city at that. To combine that with witnessing one of the most glorious basketball tournaments in the world is a winning formula. I wish I had more photos to share from this trip, but a broken external hard drive is no fun. A massive thanks to Nike for continuing to support Quai54 and inviting me to Paris to check it all out.