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The Unicycle Basketball Revolution

‘You take and put a unicycle into the picture and in a way it turns the world into a playground.’ Kris Holm

Random disclosure: six or seven years ago I used to sometimes play unicycle basketball with some riders here in Berkeley. I only played for about a year before I stopped, but it was a lot of fun, especially at first when I had that ‘wow, basketball on a unicycle’ sense of wonder and ludicrousness.

For those unfamiliar with unicycle basketball, (are you living in a cave?) the rules are the same as regular basketball and you do all the same things — dribble, pass, shoot — the subtle difference being that you do everything while riding a unicycle. It works pretty well, and is not as hard as you might think; if you can play basketball and you can ride a unicycle, you can play unicycle basketball. And, actually, I proved that you can still play even if you are questionable at the unicycle part. I was pretty much a flounder on the unicycle, really, and always the worst rider on the court, but the fact that I had played basketball in high school helped to make up for that. I would fall off immediately after every shot, but falling off didn’t matter if I sometimes got the ball to go in. Other players never fell off and could literally ride circles around me, but might struggle to make a simple lay up. Only one player was good at both basketball and unicycling. Games were chaotic and unicycles would crash and fly all over the place, but the moments of gracefulness and actual basketball were very sweet. Few people walked past a game without stopping to watch for a while.

Watching the video (featuring the world’s first known unicycle basketball helmet-cam, stay with it until the end when they score), you’ll see that uni-basketball is not a gentle game. When I played, there were lots of multiple-unicycle pile-ups, there was always someone bleeding after a game, and one guy broke his wrist a little after I stopped. Personally, I never really wanted to treat the game so competitively; it was just unicycle basketball, after all, so who cares about the score? But, to give the other players credit, some of them stuck with it and kept playing, kept improving, and have now formed into a genuine team, the mighty Berkeley Revolution, with a coach and uniforms and plays and everything. Next week, they are competing at the unicycle basketball world championship at UNICON XV in New Zealand. Rock on.

Apparently, they should be the favorites to win. The defending world champion is (of course?) Puerto Rico, though I’m not completely sure about that, so don’t wager any money the next time you are doing uni-basketball trivia. I do know that Puerto Rico has for years been head and shoulders above everyone else, but the press hasn’t always covered the unicycle basketball world as closely as I might like (though the Revolution is generating a buzz these days, with a feature in the East Bay Express and now a segment on the California Report, listen here, a surprise to me when it came on the radio), and so some other team might have pulled off an upset at the last championship without me realizing. Puerto Rico won’t be in New Zealand, so the Berkeley team feels very confident. I’ll update this post with the results when I have them.

— Update —

The Berkeley Revolution came up just short, finishing in second place.

Uni-basketball is just one of the events at the unicon and just one aspect of modern unicycling. Photos and descriptions of various types of riding — Artistic Freestyle, MUni (mountain-unicycling), Street, Track and Field, Unicycle Hockey and Basketball, Road Racing — are on the unicon site. Below the fold, I go a little youtube crazy with videos of the Puerto Rico All Stars, MUni hot shot Kris Holm, street rider Dan Heaton, defending freestyle world champion Matt Sindelar, and legendary Bay Area unicycle superhero Pink Man.

And if this is to be my one post on unicycling, I must end with a quick clip of local unicycling superhero Pink Man. I think he only played basketball with us once, but his ability to spin and reverse and stop on a dime were highly impressive. There is a longer youtube here.

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4 Responses to “The Unicycle Basketball Revolution”

  1. December 28th, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    buenorific says:

    Never a dull moment @ Dry Stone Garden!
    I’m partial to Pink Man… la la la la la! ;]

  2. December 28th, 2009 at 10:02 pm

    lostlandscape(James) says:

    If I had a little more than average coordination I’d be out there freestyling after seeing your next to last video. Jeez that looks like fun. But I’d be a hopeless case–I can’t unicycle, can’t play ball. Pretty good at falling down, tho…

  3. December 28th, 2009 at 11:15 pm

    ryan says:

    Well, falling is the first skill you learn on a unicycle, and certainly my only unicycle skill these days.

  4. April 5th, 2010 at 8:55 pm

    unicyclekid says:

    The pink man is one of the best things I’ve seen in a while. Gives me ideas for my part of the county.

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