Andrea Bergart designed the court as part of Mobil 1’s Tune Up initiative, with the reigning WNBA Rookie of the Year helping to get the word out.
Walk by McCaffery Playground on West 43rd Street in Manhattan, and you’ll probably do a double-take. What was once a traditional but aging outdoor basketball court — green to match the NYC Parks colors with its leaf emblem at mid-court — is now a striking display of art.
Artist Andrea Bergart designed the new court, and the project is courtesy of Mobil 1’s Tune Up community initiative, where it works with non-profit Project Backboard and local basketball stars to refurbish area basketball courts, making them fit for the next generation of talent to hone their skills.
In New York, the athlete honor falls to Liberty forward and reigning WNBA Rookie of the Year Michaela Onyenwere. Onyenwere is from Colorado, went to UCLA, and has lived in the city for only a year, but says she connected with New York and its rich basketball history immediately.
“There’s a culture here where outdoor courts are very important,” she told Boardroom. “I’m not from New York. If I’m gonna be here, if I’m gonna be in this culture, then [this project] is a no-brainer for me.”
This isn’t the first time that Mobil 1 has teamed up with a star basketball player to refurbish a local court. The company partnered with Channing Frye during 2022 NBA All-Star weekend to unveil a refurbished gym at the historic Merrick House in Cleveland. In March, Mobil 1 followed that up with a Karl-Anthony Towns-designed court at the Sojourner Truth Academy in Minneapolis.
But for Onyenwere, this opportunity specifically hit home. She’s part of a league that is on an undeniable upward trajectory, but one that still needs to bring in younger fans. Engaging them in cities that already have a team, like New York, are essential to getting fans to the arena. She can already feel that energy.
“Last year, people were very excited to watch our team,” she said. “I would be on the street and would people like, ‘Oh my gosh, we’re so excited to come to your game.’ So you see the excitement kind of revving up for women’s basketball.”
As for Bergard, the local artist is a lifelong athlete who is no stranger to merging the two fields. Her time playing with New York’s all-women basketball community, Downtown Girls Basketball, has inspired her work in the past, which includes a line of luxury bags handmade from basketballs.
“As a New Yorker and basketball enthusiast being involved in this project with Mobil 1 and Project Backboard is particularly exciting for me,” Bergart said in a release. “The artwork I developed for this basketball court explores ideas relating to fluidity and kaleidoscopic reflections; forms flowing into other forms and branching off and returning to the whole. Ultimately, I want to create imagery that offers the viewer a poignant experience that also acknowledges the strict geometry of a court.”
All that adds up to a court that Onyenwere admits she really wants to play on — and, really, isn’t that the point?