‘Black Gods Of The Asphalt’ Takes Basketball Beyond The Court

Onaje X. O. Woodbine’s book, Black Gods of the Asphalt, has also been adapted into a play by the same name. He appears here on that play’s set at Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass. Courtesy of DeChant-Hughes & Associates

Onaje X.O. Woodbine grew up in inner city Boston and was on the path to his own NBA dreams — as a sophomore at Yale he was the team’s highest scorer. He was voted one of the top Ivy League players, but in a move that provoked the ire of his coach, he quit — to devote more time to his studies. He wanted to become, as he wrote in a letter to his coach, “the person I was meant to be.”

His new book Black Gods of the Asphalt invites readers to look at basketball differently, not just as a distraction from racism or as a path out of poverty, but as a sacred space where young black boys and men go “to reclaim their humanity.”

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Woodbine spoke with NPR’s Michel Martin about his relationship with the game and why he decided to stop playing at Yale.

Click the audio link above to hear the full conversation.