Hoops Factory sprang up from the ground in Paris in early 2016 and Parisian basketball hasn't been the same since. This unique project provides high-end and affordable basketball facilities for ballers in a city where there is a lack of places to play. Supported by two NBA players (Evan Fournier from Orlando Magic, Rudy Gobert from Utah Jazz) among others, the project met a huge success since its opening and a crazy amount of players came on this wooden-floor imported from the US. From beginners to semi-pros, and even professional players, they come for a game, one of the many leagues, or for a shooting session.
Hoops Factory revolutionized the Parisian basketball landscape. To talk about it we caught up with the French photographer and co-director of Doin’it in the Park documentary about pick up culture in NYC, Kevin Couliau.
(c) How did your story with basketball begin ?
KC: I believe I caught the basketball virus through my older brother. Back in 1989 he was playing in a club near our house so I would follow him and his friends to the training. I instantly felt in love with the game and quickly joined this small family club where I learned the fundamentals and spent countless hours training with the boys, the men and even the women. As a young prospect with NBA dreams I did a few tryouts to integrate the best training center in Cholet, one of the best if not the best place in France to learn basketball and access the pros.
I was experiencing a parallel life through skateboarding. The sport that opened my mind so much that I turned down the opportunities in the world of basketball. I kept playing the game but I wasn’t seeking the pros anymore-- but just enjoying the competition in a more humble way. Outdoor basketball also had a big impact on my vision of the sport, running with my friends in the Parc de Procé, our local playground was something I enjoyed more than anything. Playing on the asphalt helped me work on my creativity, toughness and most importantly create lifelong friendships with people from various origins. It has also inspired me to discover more courts, more cultures, to cross the Atlantic and visit the universal Mecca of basketball, New York City. A place I only saw in movies and documentaries such as Soul in The Hole or the American Game.
(c) You travelled a lot what is the Parisian specificity about basketball?
KC: Parisian basketball is the perfect picture of the Parisian population - It’s a big melting pot, people from all over the world come and move here, whether it is for work or tourism. That’s the beauty of Parisian basketball to me, its richness and diversity in playing style and people. There is obviously a pride and grittiness in everything we do here, on the court and off the court. But it is part of an identity that has been developed outdoors since the late '80s. There is deep history when it comes to playground basketball, the names, the courts, the stories, all these things you hear and learn out here are key components to generate a solid basketball sub-culture. Today, there is definitely an energy around basketball in Paris, recent initiatives like the Quai 54 tournament or brands like Pigalle have definitely helped promote French basketball overseas. So now people look at us differently, they respect us in a way, and want to learn about the culture.
(c) What does Hoops Factory bring to the picture ?
KC: Hoops Factory is a church for us, believers in the orange ball. A country like France hasn’t figured out yet that sport was the key to channel the youth, that’s why gyms and outdoor courts are not accessible 24/7 despite being paid by our tax money. This generates a lot of frustration among the kids, among the older guys, among everybody who wants to play basketball. A facility such as Hoops Factory eliminates all this frustration, allowing people to play basketball whenever they can, the same way people go running or cycling. That’s a major change in our life as athlete, it’s a place where we can workout, play pick-up games and just chill with our folks. A true temple for the basketball heads.
(c) How often do you go and play there ?
KC: I try to go there twice a week when I’m not on the road.
(c) Tell us about your next project.
KC: I’m currently working on a photography book about pick-up basketball around the world. Stories and places collected since 2004 across the five continents. Follow my moves on Instagram @asphaltchronicles
Hoops Factory, 3 rue Pierre Larousse, 93300 Aubervilliers, Subway Porte de la Villette / Aubervilliers