Playing basketball without a net is like wearing a pair of Reebok Pumps without inflating them. Sure, you can do it, but it’s not nearly as satisfying. A net makes the game a better experience; it stops the ball from sailing through the rim and bouncing all over the place, and provides an easier-to-see target. And everyone loves a good swish sound.
Unfortunately, many of Toronto’s public basketball courts are swish-less, thanks to missing or dilapidated twine, and years of neglect. It’s an issue that’s bothered Adam Bosley, a.k.a. Adam the Illustrator, for years. So, last summer, he decided to do something about it. The local artist launched Nothin’ But Net, an initiative focused on re-meshing rims across the GTA. He and photographer Matthew Im went around town replacing 20 nets, snapping some pics, and making some noise.
They wound up catching the ear of Reebok and Foot Locker, who are now coming through with the ultimate lob, teaming up with Bosley to replace 200 nets across Canada this summer. They’re asking the public to tell them which courts deserve attention on the Nothin’ But Net, Reebok Canada, and Foot Locker Toronto Instagram accounts
The motivation behind the initiative is easy enough to grasp: “This is important to me because I remember the feeling of going to play ball as a kid and the rim having no mesh,” Bosley tells Complex. “I want to make sure that when kids, teenagers, and adults hit their local court, they have mesh.”
Helping people out is kind of Adam’s thing, anyway. At the beginning of the pandemic, the 34-year-old Scarborough native found himself out of a job and mentally exhausted. As a form of stress relief, he began illustrating fun how-to guides and sharing them on Instagram (e.g. “How to Do the Toosie Slide,” “How to Give Yourself a Bowl Cut”). Over time, he started weaving positive messages about mental health, friendship, and the environment into his drawings—and going more viral in the process.
“I remember making a how to guide, ‘How to Make It in 2020.’ The original concept started off with negative ideas and I just didn’t feel like putting that out into the world. I switched the tone and haven’t looked back since,” he shares. “A lot of the illustrations I’ve been doing come directly from what I’m currently dealing with: doubt, worry, patience, taking time for myself, and so much more. It’s important to me because I want others to know that they’re not alone.”
Bosley’s now carrying that we’re-all-in-this-together energy over to Canada’s courts. An avid baller himself—his aunt worked for the Toronto Raptors, leading him to fall in love with the game at an early age—he recognizes how much value outdoor nets have brought to people’s lives over the last year, with gyms shuttered and sports events banned. He says he’s been sitting on the Nothin’ But Net idea since 2018, but was spurred to action by the pandemic. “With COVID putting things to a stop, becoming unemployed and focusing on my mental health, I thought, ‘now’s the time’,” he says. “We took photos and let people know we wanted to make a bigger impact in 2021. I guess we spoke it into existence.”
Over the next few months, Bosley will be putting up 150 nets by hand across the GTA, at a clip of about five to ten a week. The other 50 will be mailed out to schools across Canada as part of Reebok’s BOKS initiative, which aims to enhance physical activity for children throughout the country. We’re not sure how good Adam is at basketball, but that’s a splash in our books.
So, if you’ve got a court in mind that needs some love, Bosley encourages you to hit him or Reebok Canada up. You might just make a difference.
Besides, he’s always on the lookout for new hooping destinations. “MacGregor Playground in Toronto’s west end is my home court and Carlton Park is my favourite hidden gem that I play at on the regular,” Bosley says of his favourite spots in the city. “Aside from that, I’d say Jack Goodlad Park. Never played there but I remember driving past as a kid on Saturday and Sundays and it being packed, BBQs going, and ball being played. Looked like a fun-ass time.”
And as for his favourite kicks to play in? He’s certainly got some Reeboks in his arsenal. “Currently, I love the Kamikaze Lows. They’re functional and I actually prefer low cuts for ball,” he says. “I know as a kid we got Reebok Pumps and I definitely had a pair of Iversons, just can’t remember which ones!”
Either way, Adam’s aiming to make this summer unforgettable for Canadian ballers. We can’t wait to see the net results.