The top 10 basketball courts to play pick-up in Toronto
Pick-up basketball in Toronto is one of my favourite summer activities. It's a good thing there are plenty of courts to play on in Toronto, each of which gets different grades for the conditions of their rims, their level of competition and how accessible they are via bikes, car and public transit.
I also helps to know whether it's easy to get involved in a game rather easily or if you have to be part of the regular crowd to be allowed in. For those looking for a competitive full court game or a free hoop to challenge a friend to a game of one on one, here's my list of some of the best places to play pick-up basketball in Toronto.
Harbourfront Community Centre
Bathurst and Queens Quay
No matter where I turned to find a great spot to play, my journey always came back here. This is arguably the most popular spot in the city to play pickup basketball. Players come to Toronto from all over the world and love to play on this court because of the intensely "basketball only" vibe and the high level of play you can match up against. It's also a well-maintained court with enough hoops to practice on if you're a little intimidated by the level of play on the main court. There are often games in the evening, as well.
Corner of Queen East and Jarvis
Once upon a time this Jarvis and Queen locale was a dicey spot to attempt a game, but that's no longer the case. The courts and hoops are now regularly maintained and while the level of competition varies from day to day, it tends to be a little less intimidating than some of the other options in Toronto. There's usually a hoop or two open for an afternoon game of one on one or a friendly group of people open to adding another to a game they've already started. Kids and adults can often be found playing simultaneously on adjacent courts but if you're looking for a full court game, you might be out of luck as the hoops are often occupied by a number of different games.
750 Bloor Street West (Bloor and Christie)
If you're looking for some pickup ball with a little hockey vibe included, then check out Christie Pits. The courts are surrounded by hockey boards that give it a closed in feeling. The courts aren't as pristine as the ones by the lake but the energy is just as competitive and there's usually various levels of play. If there's a downside it's that there aren't as many hoops at Christie Pits so waiting times can sometimes be lengthy - the courts can be particularly packed during the summer months.
Dufferin Grove Park
on Dufferin South of Bloor
Dufferin Grove may be known more for its community bake oven but it also has a pretty nice basketball court. The hoops and nets are well taken care of and there's plenty of room to wait around and watch if the courts are full. Those who are nervous to join in need not worry. Dufferin Grove sports a wide range of basketball ability and a very friendly atmosphere. More often then not you can join in on a game that has already started or join up with others waiting for a hoop to open up.
Hoop Dome (Sheppard and Dufferin)
75 Carl Hall Rd.
This isn't a free outdoor spot but it is one of the best places to go in the city for some pickup basketball, especially during the winter months. Hoop Dome is an indoor facility that was started by Glen Grunwald, former GM of the Raptors and Paul Jones, voice of the Raptors. It sports 4 full size courts and 3 "cages" where players can gather for some pickup play that simulates the inner city feel inside the facility. Playing a game usually costs $11.75, but the facilities in Hoop Dome are world class and if you pay you're guaranteed a cage. You don't have to fight to get a hoop. Because of its affiliation with the Toronto Raptors it's very popular with adults and kids of all ages. The competition level can vary drastically. Try staying around and watching for a bit before you decide when you're going to get in there.
Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre (JCC)
corner of Spadina and Bloor
In keeping with great indoor spots for pickup basketball, try the JCC. It's a very centrally located spot and easily accessible by TTC. The JCC has nice indoor courts designated for pickup basketball though the courts tend to be very busy in the winter months and on rainy days in the summer. The competition varies on these courts and it's only available for open use once a week. I find the courts to be quite busy and if you're not a high caliber player you might not get a chance to get on the court. There's also a cost if you want to drop in without a membership. The fee is $10 per play, which is cheaper than Hoop Dome or the YMCA.
Sorauren and Wabash
Sometimes you can tell a great pickup spot simply from the appearance of the court. Sorauren Park is a court that offers a lot of flair. Its brightly painted backboards and surrounding walls covered in graffiti give the park a great urban outdoor feel. The hoops and court are usually in fairly good shape and there are often plenty of players around during the summer months to get a game going. The demographic here is a mix of adults and high school kids so the level of competition tends to vary. Also it only has two hoops so the court is not always available during the busy late afternoon time slot.
1967 Ellesmere Rd
Some of the downtown folk may guffaw at the inclusion of a Scarborough court on this list. While it may be out of the way for the downtown crowd there's almost always a basketball game going on at this court. Often the players are a mix of kids and teenagers, but there is enough room to get your own pickup game going with friends. Occasionally there are some older players but often you're battling for the hoops with teenagers from nearby schools. The facilities here are well kept by the arena staff and there are four hoops to choose from.
Coxwell in between Danforth and Gerrard
This small court is a diamond in the rough for a nice pickup game with friends. On the East side of Coxwell South of Danforth next to the Amik Plaza, you're likely to be able to play half court or full court on this well maintained East side spot. Although the court is right off of Coxwell ave, the surrounding trees and housing complex mask much of the street noise making it all about you, your opponents and the game. The court is often empty so it's easy to start a pickup game with friends or if there are players there you can usually join in fairly easily. This court isn't for those looking for stiff competition. It's usually just a couple of people playing one on one, but in the heat of the summer you can get a nice full court game started if you're looking for it.
Your Local Public School
If all else fails and you just want to have a quick pickup game on the fly with some friends, your best bet is a local public school. Most schools in the downtown core keep the hoops up after hours to allow anyone interested in the opportunity to get a game going or just some extra shooting practice. The hoops and backboards (as well as the quality of the court) are going to vary though some more basketball focused schools like Keele St. Public School and Runnymede public school offer nice large, well maintained courts.
Writing by Kristoffer Pedlar. Photo by chow dogger in the blogTO Flickr pool