This Man Uses His Own Money to Buy New Basketball Nets for Playgrounds

Anibal Amador knows that basketball is nothing without the net.

One of the most gratifying sounds in sports is the whoosh of a basketball snapping the netting on a perfect swish. Take away the net and all that’s left is the unsatisfying silence of a ball pushing air molecules around as it sails through the rim. Did it even go through? Sometimes it’s hard to tell.

That’s why Anibal Amador, a former real estate agent from New York City, regularly dips into his own pocket to buy brand-new nets for playground rims (like this man who built an ice rink for the children in his community). For the most part, the city does not provide them.

“Without the nets, it is just not good,” Amador said. “No one prefers to play that way.”

So, for the past few years, with the help of a stepladder he brings from his apartment, Amador has been buying basketball nets and fastening them to the rims at a handful of playgrounds near his home in Midtown Manhattan.

A city without basketball nets

The New York City Parks Department maintains 1,800 basketball courts around the city’s five boroughs, where some of the best games in history have been staged without a single fan watching. It isn’t feasible to keep nets on all the rims in all the parks, so the city doesn’t even try.

“I understand it,” Amador said, “because there are just so many parks that they would have to be putting up nets all the time. That’s where I come in.”

Amador’s small civic gesture is one of many small acts of kindness that tend to go unnoticed yet help sustain a small measure of quality of life in a crowded metropolis where the mythology of playground basketball is a matter of city lore.

QUOTE: "I thought he worked for the city," said one grateful player.

Last year, a group of players at one playground, St. Vartan Park, waited patiently as Amador, then 55, carefully balanced atop his ladder, finished fastening new nets to the clips under the rims before wiping down the backboard with a rag. When he was done, they cheered.

“It is much better for everyone with the nets,” Amador said, sharing a huge smile.

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For the love of the game

Originally from Rio Piedras in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Amador moved to New York City almost 30 years ago, working in real estate until recently. He is looking to branch out into something else but, in the meantime, he plays basketball two or three times a week and replaces the nets at his favorite courts as needed, roughly every nine weeks.

“The amount of play that these parks get is surprising,” he said. “It’s a lot, and the nets really don’t last.”

But at St. Vartan, Amador makes sure that every good shot is a splashdown through the feathery nets he buys on the Internet for about $10 apiece.

Once, when he was putting up some new nets, one of the regular players gave Amador $20 to help defray his costs. The player was astounded that someone would be so generous with his money and time. “I thought he worked for the city,” the man said. “He was very meticulous. And then he brings out a long brush and wipes down the backboards. I’ve never seen that before.”

Amador says he does it simply for the love of the game.

Because every great hoop star has a nickname—LeBron is King James, Earvin Johnson is Magic—Amador was asked if he had one.

Beaming, he replied, “I was thinking maybe…the Net Changer.”

Next, read more stories about the kindness of strangers.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest