Powerful Portraits of Young Ballers
Photographer Clara Mokri mixes stunning portraits of kids hooping with photos from her youth as a basketball player.
All photographs by Clara Mokri
This past spring, I went to the Boys and Girls Club of New Haven. It's an organization that provides after-school programs for kids from low-income households with an emphasis on competitive sports. I came there looking for ways to reconnect with basketball, the sport that defined my youth. But even though the court was like a second home for me back in the day, I felt a little uneasy walking into that gym. It had been two years since I had even played an organized game.
“You ball?” a kid no older than 11 asked me right away. As a former Division 1 college basketball player, I did, in fact, ball. “Yeah,” I replied. “Do you want me to rebound for you?” He nodded and I followed him onto the court.
That's when I started to get that old feeling back. While it was a little weird towering over short, pre-pubescent boys, I felt connected to the sport and all the kids who were playing. It didn’t matter that they were boys and I was a woman, because our experiences with the sport were so similar.
On one of my last days in New Haven, I met an eight-year-old boy named Jacier who told me that he had just started playing basketball. He recognized my retro Steve Nash jersey, and after asking to try it on, I gave it to him even though it hung down past his knees. My mind flashed back to when I was Jacier's age and my cousin finally deemed me worthy enough to be gifted his retro Michael Jordan jersey. It didn’t matter that Steve Nash stopped playing professional basketball while Jacier was still in diapers. And it didn't matter that I was barely even alive when Michael Jordan was at the pinnacle of his career. Basketball is universal and legends are timeless.
To capture the way basketball transcends eras, genders, and race, I've interspersed the pictures I took in New Haven with images that commemorate my youth playing the sport. Through this juxtaposition, it's evident that hoop dreams are universal.
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