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The whole thing is pure playground, a scene straight out of "White Men Can't Jump." Except this isn't basketball, because that scene's been done to death, in books and magazines and movies. Handball, well, what is handball, anyway? Handball's what happens on the other side of the fence-enclosed basketball court at West Fourth Street, where rap stars strut and NBA millionaires preen. Handball's just a couple of chumps taking turns pounding a rubber ball against a wall, and how much can there be to that?
In a sense, handball is more of a true New York pursuit than basketball. Nowhere else in the world do they play the game like this, on more than 2,000 courts all over the city, for pride, for money, for street cred and high-school phys-ed credits, for school championships and college scholarships. There are other variations on the sport - team handball, three-wall handball played mostly on the West Coast, four-wall handball played indoors on racquetball courts - but one-wall on outdoor courts is New York's version, and has been at least since the Depression. It is as cheap and readily available as a sport can possibly get.
LoPierre just wound up his senior year at Forest Hills as the best high school player in New York City. His school won the PSAL team championship and LoPierre won the individual championship, beating his closest competitor in the final, 21-5. Next year, he'll play college handball, at one of the few schools that actually fields a team, Lake Forest of Illinois. It's not officially a handball scholarship, but it's as close as you can get to one, as close as you can get to a future in handball. Most of the time, the legends die right here, on the playground. Because really, where else can they go?