Meet Basketball Cop.
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“The call came from outside my normal patrol zone.
I took it because we were really busy, and I sensed an opportunity. A lot of kids are nervous around cops because of what they’ve seen. The relationship between youth and law enforcement isn’t where it should be. I saw the call and thought, ‘Perfect — this is the opportunity.’”
In January 2016, Gainesville police officer Bobby White responded to a call that changed his life. After someone complained of a group of teenagers playing basketball “loudly” in the street, White drove to the scene.
The kids froze when Officer White rolled up, stepped out of his patrol car, and started walking toward them.
“Can you believe someone’s calling and complaining about kids playing basketball in the streets? I don’t know who called, but obviously I ain’t got a problem with it,” said White as he grabbed the ball and aimed at the hoop.
Then, they started to play. Other kids from the street joined in. Ten minutes later when White left, eight kids had joined in — and his dashboard camera had caught it all on tape.
Little did White know, the Gainesville PD’s Public Information Officer decided to post the video on the department’s Facebook page with the hashtag #HoopsNotCrime. Views began rolling in. Six hours later, the video hit one million views and kept climbing — all the way to 17 million.
Officer White—aka “Basketball Cop”—became an overnight sensation but insisted that what he did was no big deal. “This is what cops do every day. It’s not out of the ordinary. If you look for it, you’ll see it.”
White began giving interviews, and people started sending basketball equipment to the department. That’s when he realized that with the attention came a valuable opportunity…
He had a chance to change the relationship between police officers and youth across the country.
Officer White’s first step was to start a GoFundMe for the aptly named Basketball Cop Foundation. Donations helped White set up the nonprofit as a registered 501c3, build two pro-size basketball courts for Gainesville youth, and send portable hoops and basketballs to 28 police departments across the country.
“I always drive around with a basketball and football in the trunk of my patrol car so I can get out and interact with kids in a positive way,” said White. “That’s the power of sports. Sports teams are diverse, and they work together toward a common goal. That’s how we want to be.
“For under $200, we can send out a portable hoop and basketballs. That gets 30 cops and 50 kids playing together. The number of police officer-child relationships we can build is only limited by money.”
In addition to the basketball courts and hoops, White’s foundation has helped officers hand out backpacks, school supplies, and even Christmas gifts to local kids — all distributed from the trunks of patrol cars.
Officer White did all this with just $20,000 raised from generous donors across the country. Now a year later, he’s ready to do even more.
Media attention has brought White new friends and fans (like basketball legend Shaq) as well as opportunities to share his vision of building positive police-youth relationships, including an invitation to speak at the recent NBA All-Star Game. But White’s number one priority is still the kids in his community — including the original #HoopsNotCrime crew.
The viral video was not the end of their story. Officer White and the kids remain very close. They play ball, share updates, and the kids even text White when they need help or advice. On a typical day you can find White completing his rounds, updating Basketball Cop Foundation’s social media, and teaching his #HoopsNotCrime friend Tyree how to drive.
Recently, White organized the foundation’s second annual High School All-Star Game, with the top high school players in Gainesville competing against the top police officers from the department. Community members and the #HoopsNotCrime crew cheered players on from the packed stands as they played, joked, and competed side-by-side.
But Bobby White’s not done yet. A year before he became the Basketball Cop, White stepped out of his car, pulled a football from his trunk, and played catch with a two-year-old named Duke. Something just clicked, and they’ve been inseparable since. White and Becki Holcomb — his girlfriend and fellow officer — think of Duke, his siblings, and his mother as their second family.
“I’ll be honest — I grew up poor, my mom was addicted to drugs, and we moved from boyfriend to boyfriend,” said White. “I didn’t have a positive male figure in my life. Neither does Duke, but I want to be that for him. I told his mom I’ll be there when he graduates high school and goes to college. These are the relationships I want to build across the country.”
Officer White’s goal? To challenge 100 cops every year to go out in their community and find a Duke. To have a “basketball cop” in every police agency in the country. To help officers and kids connect, empathize, and thrive. To heal the divide between police and the community.
If Officer White’s story inspires you, please ❤ and share.