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Basketball Cop Brings New Benefits, Issues to Local Community

Tyree Thomas, 16, shoots a free throw on the new 24x30 foot basketball court in his backyard the Gainesville Police Department and the Basketball Cop Foundation gave him after noise complaints of Thomas and his friends being loud in the street. (Ryan Summers/WUFT News)

The viral video that drew national attention in January promoting #HoopsNotCrime in a local Gainesville neighborhood has changed the dynamic of an entire community.

Since the video was posted, it has received over 17 million views and 23,000 comments on Facebook and over 380,000 YouTube views.

Besides recognition on social media, a new basketball court in one of the youths’ backyard and moving the youths from the street to an enclosed environment, the attention opened the door for a new Gainesville-based outreach foundation.

At the same time, it created other issues for the neighbors, such as concerns about noise, property damage and safety.

“We got a lot of recognition with Shaq and Harlem Globetrotters and everybody else,” neighbor Michelle Haddock said. “It put our little road on blast.”

Gainesville Police Department officer Bobby White and the GPD are responsible for the new 24-by-30-foot basketball court in Tyree “Tuba” Thomas’ backyard.

Next-door-neighbor Larry Archer, 54, said the new court has caused the youths to break his fence many times to retrieve basketballs. While he said he leaves his fence open all day so the kids can get the balls, they still try to climb over anyway.

“They are breaking the fence,” Archer said. “It’s not a big deal, but it’s going to be a big deal later if it continues to go on because when summer comes around, everybody’s going to be out of school; and it’s going to be everybody over there doing whatever they want.”

Archer isn’t the only neighbor who feels this way.

Haddock, the mother of a 7-year-old boy, lives across the street from Thomas’ house and said now she sees people that she’s never seen before.

“It went from like having no kids, to having a whole bunch of kids,” Haddock said. “Who are they? Because they didn’t used to come. Before basketball cop came through maybe three, maybe four. Now he’s got 15 to 25.”

Both Archer and Haddock’s biggest safety concerns are the lack of supervision they said the court has now that it’s been placed away from the street.

“I’ll tell you why it’s not as safe, because those kids will jump onto that car, onto that deck, onto that roof and they will play basketball off of the roof,” Haddock said. “It’s dangerous. I don’t know where the adults are, but it’s dangerous.”

Richard Cobb, 17, attempts to make a layup in a game of 21 against his friends. Cobb was one of the original two players in the street from the January 15 Basketball Cop video. (Ryan Summers/WUFT News)
Richard Cobb, 17, attempts to make a layup in a game of 21 against his friends. Cobb was one of the original two players in the street from the January 15 Basketball Cop video. (Ryan Summers/WUFT News)

Haddock said she thinks the court gives the wrong impression that it’s for the neighborhood.

“If it was for the neighborhood, they would’ve put it provided where the public can see it,” she said.

Haddock said she still believes the new court has been a positive for the community, but her outlook toward it has changed and doesn’t think it solves the best solution for the neighborhood’s noise complaints.

Yet despite Haddock’s concerns, White said there have been no noise complaints or further police complaints regarding the basketball players since the backyard court was placed behind Thomas’ home.

Also, Thomas said being able to play basketball in his backyard, as opposed to in the street, has heightened his basketball aspirations.

“It’s great because I don’t have to go anywhere else to play basketball. It has, like, helped me out trying to make the basketball team,” Thomas said. “It changed my life when I met Shaq, because Shaq wanted everybody to do right and not bad.”

About Ryan Summers

Ryan is a reporter for WUFT News who may be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news @wuft.org

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