Denver is an active city and Colorado is one of America’s healthiest states. One could prove Denver’s proclivities towards health and wellness with just about any metric you can imagine, and as the weather changes a lot of that activity is going to find its way indoors.
And with the NBA season starting this week, basketball courts throughout the city will be swarmed with Denverites lacing up their sneakers and doing their best Will Barton impressions.
Luckily for both longtime and new Denver residents, both organized and more relaxed options are abundant for you to prove that you deserve a max contract more than Nikola Jokic, because everyone does.
First of all, there are all kinds of actual leagues.
One of the benefits of these options is that they have a tiered system that helps people find the appropriate level of competition for their game. For instance when you visit their websites, they have ranking systems that go from recreational co-ed leagues, meant for people who are novices or might be more interested in having a drink after the games than winning; all the way up to a competitive bracket, where you might get dunked on.
According to Roger Bandelier, Sportsmonter’s basketball league manager, their participants tend to hover around the 22-35 age bracket. However, he was quick to note that doesn’t mean people older than that don’t find their way into the programs.
“We’ve been doing this for 15-plus years, and we’ve established a good basketball program where our customers are satisfied, and our retention rate is very good,” Bandelier said.
Our basketball program is probably the most elite in Denver. All of our programs fill up pretty quickly.”
The city of Denver also provides a tiered league set up through their Citywide Sports operation.
They operate out of 29 locations and John Martinez, the deputy executive director of recreation, said that there’s a place nearby for everybody, no matter the neighborhood you hail from. Martinez also touted the league as one of the most affordable options in the city as their cost for team signup is $475 while Sportsmonster and Play Mile High sit at around $700 per team.
“Denver, in general, is a very active,” Martinez said. “We have a ton of leagues. We have probably over 30,000 players in all of our different sports.”
The city also has designated times and dates for pickup basketball games at many recreation centers.
The general level of competition can be harder to predict for those games, according to Martinez, because some neighborhoods develop groups of guys that meet up and play regularly and their skill levels can vary significantly on any given week.
He also noted that there is an element of camaraderie that is created by playing in the leagues, which may be helpful to someone who just moved to the city.
“Not only is it just the sport, it’s the social aspect of things. We have a lot of folks moving into Denver that may not have a friend,” Martinez said.
Although pick-up runs have a hit-or-miss element, with a little bit of trial and error, you can probably find a good game somewhere. For instance on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays at the Downtown YMCA — the gym is currently under construction but will be up and running soon — there’s a group of older guys that get a couple of games in during their lunch hour before they turn from hoop stars back into accountants, dentists and whatnot.
If that’s not your speed, on Sunday mornings at the Montclair Recreation Center, there’s a super competitive run that has brought out a wealth of talented players — even some NBA level competition in the past.
If you’re really ready to compete, you might want to consider Colorado’s pro-am where they are, for lack of a better word, really hooping.
While the league doesn’t have the clout of other peer leagues like throughout the country like the Drew League in Los Angeles or the Dykman League in New York City, it does have an abundance of talented players and competitive play.
“A large part of it is, if you get athletes that are playing hard, it makes the games more competitive because they all hate to lose,” Trevor Coffman said.
The league usually has runs that include former and current college players as well as pros but if you don’t have those credentials but feel like you can compete, you can go ahead and pull up according to Coffman. Just know if you’re wrong, there’s not a lot of rest for the weary once you step on the floor.
“We had a team in there this last season that, they had a couple of college kids on the team, and some of them were just guys who play basketball on a high level,” said Coffman.
“It’s not an unspoken thing,” said Coffman referencing who’s the intended audience for the games. “It’s just, you’re probably not going to like the results if you step onto the floor with a team that can’t compete.”