Celebrating the Hoopbus’ First Trip South of the Border
The Bucket List Episode 3: We Built a Court in Tijuana
It’s been almost three months since the Veniceball team took a trip with the Hoopbus to Mexico, where we spent three days in Tijuana. The experience, for myself and the eclectic group at large who set off down the San Diego Freeway towards the border is one that will be remembered forever.
We set off to Mexico on the Hoopbus with a “No Borders” backboard wrap for, on the face, a typical production of Hoopbus programming. The run of show was a court inauguration, built in an entrenched housing complex in the heart of TJ, followed by a Venice 5 exhibition game challenging Mexico’s CIBACOPA Champions – The Tijuana Zonkeys. The project, led by longtime Veniceball Ambassador Ricardo Torres, had been in the motion for some time and centered around a joint effort between Legado Invictus, Puma Hoops, Veniceball, the Hoopbus and the Zonkeys. The goal was to giveback to the community in the form of the court and an inaugural skills clinic hosted by the Venice 5 and the Zonkeys and to facilitate cultural exchange with all we came across.
The Court & Skills Clinic
After the skills clinic, our 5 pulled up to the incredible Zonkeys Stadium, el Auditorio Zonkeys, in Baja California to play an exhibition game which packed the stands. If there was any doubt that Mexico has top-tier basketball energy, let the debate be put to rest. Ultimately the Venice 5 came out on top in an electric show which showcased the chemistry between the premier talent of Venice Beach.
A few days later we had crossed the border to San Diego and the trip was over. What we, and certainly I, hadn’t accounted for was the authenticity and love we encountered on the way. We witnessed a small community come together over 3 weeks to help build the court and improve their space, each in their own unique and personal way. Some painted red and green on the asphalt, others worked in the community flowerbeds ripping up weeds from the long-neglected bins, the elderly even came by with the assist, refreshing the crew with cold drinks and hot food. The community felt alive.
The Construction Crew
Throughout the trip, the whole group was confronted with our privilege. The disparity between the lives and opportunities we experience at home in the states versus that of our neighbors a mere 5 miles from the border was clear as day. This was never more apparent than we crossed the border, when (aside from the bus driver) the entire crew found ourselves playing for hours in the traffic jam. We got buckets with thousands of Mexican families including experienced churro stand entrepreneurs, hustling children no older than 5 selling roadside chachkis, dog salesmen, beer-run delivery servicemen, mariachi bands, the poor, the disabled and people from all walks of life in-between. It was a profound glitch in life’s monotony to see the joy in so many people that seemed to have so much less. The 1,000 feet leading up to the border crossing is a crowded and vibrantly-lit bustle of commerce set amidst an ever-present backlog of car lights, then *poof* you cross the border and it’s all gone, normal empty black roads meet you.
Throughout the trip we brought our No Borders message to Tijuana’s stadiums and shorelines, to their courts and communities, and to their mercados and monuments. With each stop we met, we learned and we grew. Until our return, we thank all those who helped to make the first visit to Mexico a trip of a lifetime.