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Poem Sampler

Basketball Poems

Poetry about great players, unusual teams, and flashy moves.
Photo By: PabloBM

These poems and articles showcase small-town MVPs, one-on-one games, good-natured underdogs, and the poetic elegance of the swish.


For the Love of the Game

Old Men Playing Basketball” by B.H. Fairchild

Boys rise up in old men, wings begin to sprout
at their backs. The ball turns in the darkening air.

One on One in Basketball” by Ray Fleming

                                   It had nothing to do
with physiology or mysticism: only basketball.

Makin’ Jump Shots” by Michael S. Harper

“traveling” someone calls—
and he laughs, stepping
to a silent beat, gliding

Fast Break” by Edward Hirsch

with a wild, headlong motion
for the game he loved like a country


The Glory Days

Ex-Basketball Player” by John Updike

                                                    Once in a while,
As a gag, he dribbles an inner tube,
But most of us remember anyway.

On a Recent Collegiate Basketball Scandal” by William Belvin

I, too, once dribbled that old bubble, happiness,
And found in time the scramble and the rules

Urban Renewal XVIII.” by Major Jackson

Back then I learned to avoid what I feared
and to place my third-string hopes on a game-winning
basketball shot, sure it would slow them to a stop

The Unsung Song of Harry Duffy” by G.E. Murray

But mostly, at 3 a.m., in the local playground, Harry
You played solitary ball

Fall River” by David Rivard

A drunk called him “Tiger”
and asked about the year he’d made all-state guard—
point man, ball-hawk, pacer.


Underdogs & Unlikely Players

Catch” by Samiya Bashir

if this is a game then we have made it, unknowing,
to the final four. unlikely underdogs. spectators turned
to suspect sport. anti-athletes. out of shape beyond reason.

Courtesy” by David Ferry

The earnest voice of the kid, girlish and manly,
And the voice of the young man, carefully playing the game

Loony Bin Basketball” by Mary Karr

The psych techs in Cloroxed white
were giant angels who set us running drills, at which
we sucked.

Sandlot Basketball” by William Matthews

And the flecked body, holder of postures and grudges, rattles uneasily.



On Robert Hass’s ‘Dragonflies Mating’” by Dan Chiasson

When the remembered basketball passes through the remembered net (slyly recalling the tradition of comparing poetic lines to nets, from Wyatt’s lines “since in a net I wish to hold the wind” to Lowell’s poem “Fishnet”), we practically hear, in the actual white space between the sections, the swish.

First Loves” by Major Jackson

The poem enacts the motion of a basketball game, but even more, it becomes a larger metaphor for art and linguistic & rhetorical motion in a poem.

The Great Scorer: How poetry shaped a legendary coach’s career” by John Wooden

At UCLA, where I was head coach of men’s varsity basketball for twenty-seven years, poetry was one of my favorite teaching tools.



Inside Game: John Updike answers questions about his poem “Ex-Basketball Player

One of the dominant impressions of my growing-up in Pennsylvania—where I saw a lot of basketball games, thanks to my father’s being a high-school teacher and a ticket taker at home games—was the glory of home-town athletic stars, and their often anti-climactic post-graduation careers.

Strangers in the Nest: A poet and a sportswriter go on a macrophenomenal tour of everyday irrelevance” by Anselm Berrigan and Bethlehem Shoals

Baseball is more resonant, personal. It does a better job of attaching itself to people’s lives, whereas basketball is primarily about a love of the game.

Poem Sampler

Basketball Poems

Poetry about great players, unusual teams, and flashy moves.

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