The concept began innocently.
David Hollander’s day job was as a professor teaching the business of sports, while he played pick-up basketball in his spare time.
Eventually, he put two and two together and came up with the idea for “How Basketball Can Save The World,” a 14-week course that typically runs during the spring semester at New York University.
“I always loved basketball, but I was also witnessing the world breaking down everywhere,” Hollander says in an interview.
“I really felt like we could use the basketball principles and philosophies as a guide to solving problems. I brought it to some deans at NYU and pushed it through some bureaucracy. “
The course uses basketball as a way to explore culture, politics and commerce, seeing how the game has served as a connecting force, while also being an outlet for new ideas.
“We introduce 13 principles of basketball as a philosophy, as a way to solve problems, and bring in guests to explore everything from immigration, gender, race, fashion and all sorts of global issues.”
Class road trips have included trips to outdoor courts and to the National Basketball Association draft.
The list of guest speakers has included authors, filmmakers, Hall of Fame players and an opera singer.
Leo Doyle, a well-connected Ottawa basketball fixture, also linked Hollander to PrezDential CEO Manock Lual.
Doyle has worked closely with Lual in helping to create more opportunities for young players and is involved in the Junior Achievement program between PrezDential and Hillcrest High School.
Lual spoke to the NYU class remotely last month.
“I shared a United Nations agency video involving Manock,” Hollander says.
“He then talked about what basketball meant to him, the way he uses it to teach empathy, and I felt like I was talking to my twin brother.”
Hollander says Lual’s message was ideal for what the course is all about.
“He shared his journey from South Sudan and trying to manage and that (growing up) the only place he felt right with other people was on the basketball court. After he stopped playing, it took him a while to see that basketball stood for something and turned it into a program for kids struggling and talked about The Overbrook Show, a very high-level production. “
Hollander also sees the success of the Toronto Raptors as an example of how basketball can galvanize people who have arrived from elsewhere in the world.
“What’s happening in Toronto, and Canada at large, is amazing,” he said. “It’s a game for newcomers. It provides a sense of belonging and an expression of creativity. It’s a model for the world. “