Mani Love #ThisIsWhyWePlay

Mani Love, West 4th Street Courts

My name is Mani Love. I got my name in New York City. I’ve been playing basketball all my life. I started with a basketball in my crib, I never slept with a teddy bear, just my basketball — no bottle, no pacifier — just the rock, that’s the only thing I wanted to do. That’s the only thing I had, that’s the first thing I fell in love with.

New York City is the Mecca of basketball. It’s a showcase, it’s a stage. You bring your game, not your name. When I walk on the court, people say “What is he doing here? This little guy can’t play.” There’s people staring at me, calling me names — midget, leprechaun, big head, little body. They try to muscle me, bully me — “Oh is that a kid? What is he doing? He’s going to get hurt!”

Mani Love, Frederick Douglass Houses

I’m not just pulling for me, I’m pulling for everyone in this world who people stereotype and judge. Everyone stares at me because I’m different, but I’m staring at them because they’re all the same.

When I’m playing, it’s inspiring kids, inspiring people who’ve been told no their whole life, that they ‘can’t’ — I’m here to show you that you can.