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A Brighter Future for Run-Down Basketball Courts

For Project Backboard, there’s a simple way to turn a dilapidated court into a vibrant community hub: Just color outside the lines.
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Courtesy of Daniel Peterson/Project Backboard

Playing basketball on Kinloch Park’s court means dribbling down a literal abstract masterpiece. Once covered in weeds, the court is now a flash of sprawling reds and blues and yellows anchoring six ornate backboards. Here, squinting under the sun in mesh shorts, a teenage boy might learn how to make a layup in a lilac-hued corner.

This 20,000-square-foot court, in a small, historically black neighborhood outside St. Louis, is the product of dozens of volunteers, a leader, and an artist who all asked the city not to restore it with any old paint job. Call it “disruption;” it’s now an undeniable spectacle. Last year, Kinloch Park was even ranked among the world’s 10 best-designed basketball courts, alongside others in New York City, Paris, and Munich.