The Annual Yardball Open, a three-on-three double-court basketball tournament, was created 16 years ago by Justin Terry and carried on with gusto by younger brothers Aram and Nathan. In the beginning, it was a small gathering for friends and neighbors. Now, around 30 teams and 150-plus spectators gather at the Terrys' suburban Shangri-la to hoop it up.
People started hyping Yardball to me several months ago. Over and over, I heard, "You gotta go. You'll love it. It's huge." A full day of B-ball, DJs and a swimming pool? Sounded like fun to me, though I doubted the hype.
So last Saturday, we rolled up Granny White and passed dozens of parked cars before reaching the Terrys' house. Even from a block away, we could hear cheers, laughter and thumping bass.
It was huge. Four teams of three sweated it out on double courts, while fans and would-be ballers watched closely from the sidelines. A DJ named Amerigo had set up on a large folding table. Lawn chairs, blankets and coolers covered the lawn, which stretched between the courts and the house. I found some girly friends sprawled out on a blanket. "Welcome to Yardball," said one. "I'm drunk."
While the ballers concentrated on their game, the bikini-clad spectators focused on some combination of drinking and flirting. As I went around back to the pool and barbecue, I was advised, "It's best to go swimming earlier in the day, before the sweaty, dirty people get in." Indeed, the pool water was thoroughly cloudy. So we dipped our feet in and wondered at the darkening sky. "It won't rain," someone said. "It never rains for Yardball." And it didn't.
For every bit of Yardball ballyhoo I'd heard, I'd also been warned that it was a boring "remember-when" fest for USN and Hillsboro alums. Someone described it as "one-stop shopping for catching up with old friends." Fortunately, I was spared on account of my relative newness to Nashville, leaving me free to play with an adorable puppy and watch the action on the courts. How interesting to see streetball style set against a large graffiti mural and a happy hip-hop soundtrack, all surrounded by lush greenery and the smell of chlorinea bit of urban-lite in the posh comfort of Green Hills.
The mostly male ballers played to win. However, the signature tricks, crossovers and "breakin' ankles" of streetball were largely missing. Then again, this was Granny White Pike, not Harlem's famous Rucker Park. Or maybe I missed the slicker games.
Some associate Justin Terry with Yardball; others know him as a promising artist who has shown at Rumours Gallery. This fall, Justin will leave Nashville to pursue a master's in fine arts at Pratt Institute in New York City. Hopefully, he'll be back to see his tradition into its 17th year. If not, perhaps he'll make it to The Cagethe small but legendary courts near West Fourth Street and Sixth Avenue in Greenwich Village. There's no swimming pool, and the grease-truck kabobs and shriveled dime bags don't compare to grilled burgers and fresh-cut grass, but true fans of the game are always welcome.
Amy Waddell, photos by Darek Bell