For many African-American men, basketball is more than a game — it’s a way of life. A new book claims that basketball is even a religious experience for many Black men.

The spiritual relationship between Black men and basketball — specifically streetball — is detailed in the new book, Black Gods of the Asphalt: Religion, Hip-Hop, and Street Basketball.

Onaje X. O. Woodbine recently sat down with NewsOne Now host Roland Martin to discuss the interesting connection between hoops and African-American inner-city culture.

Woodbine explained that James Naismith (the creator of basketball) was a Presbyterian minister, and created the sport as a way to “bring White men into the church.” According to Woodbine, the Black church later picked it up as a “stylized form of resistance to White supremacy.”

When asked why he called basketball a religion, Woodbine, a former streetball player who became an all-star Ivy Leaguer said, “The stereotype is that Black men pursue basketball for economic reasons or racial reasons, having to do with poverty, but in fact what’s really going on, especially in the city, is that this game expresses its search for meaning.”

Woodbine continued, saying those who play “are asking questions like who am I, what happens when you die, what is my purpose?”

“What I found in my interviews and observations was that Black men were going to the court really after somebody had died or been stabbed or shot, and they would experience the presence of this person on the court and it became sort of this ritual space where they could grieve, where they could put the thought of the streets in abeyance for a moment and experience some form of transcendence.”

Watch Roland Martin and author Onaje X. O. Woodbine discuss the spiritual connection between African-American men and basketball in the video clip above.

Watch “NewsOne Now” with Roland Martin, in its new time slot on TV One.

Subscribe to the “NewsOne Now” Audio Podcast on iTunes.

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