Will Tuddenham was a childhood basketball player, then a fan, then a pro snowboarder, and then a basketball fan again. Now he’s taking his love for the sport to a whole new league.
by Joanne Xu
We’ve often discovered a similar narrative when talking to ex-athlete Recreationalists: They played one sport passionately as a child, fell out of it by the time they peaked in adolescence, and moved on in their adult lives. But at some point in their timeline, they always find their way back. One way or another. That’s the great thing about the art of sport — there’ll always be a time and place for it, regardless of your life stage.
It’s no different for Tuddenham, who’s recently founded Hoops Project after simmering on the idea for years.
The concept is simple: it’s his professional homage to the sport that’s, in many ways, guided his personal life for decades.
For Tuddenham, basketball is the common thread that’s secretly tugged along his dreams, career moves, and passions — even if he wasn’t aware of this fact at times. When The Recreationalist sat down to recount his steps to now, we found ourselves at a kindred ease, as if listening to his rediscovery basketball served as some sort of cathartic recollection of our own sports stories.
01. If you could give an elevator pitch for Hoop Projects, what would it be?
Hoop Projects chooses moments in basketball history as inspiration to create.
When you’re out on the court you can instantly be with other people, communicating together.
02. What about basketball makes it so influential in pop culture?
I just think it has a way of pulling communities together in certain ways — especially the ease in which the sport can be played. All you need is a ball. And when you’re out on the court you can instantly be with other people, communicating together. I just think there’s some great elements in that.
My wife and I moved briefly to Amsterdam last year without knowing anyone or having any community. One of the first things I did when I got out there was just try and find a basketball court that I could play on, and from that I was able to meet people that introduced me to a league called the Apollo Basketball Club. Playing in that league was the first time I was able to feel a sense of community out there. It was all these people from different parts of the world speaking all different languages, but we definitely had this connection. It became kind of a saving grace as far as a social network when I was out there.
03. What’s a moment in basketball history that’s really stuck out to you?
I grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah, so my favorite team was the Utah Jazz. There are two finals that the Jazz have gone to. The one that stands out the most to me was the second appearance, when Michael Jordan made the final shot to win The Bulls’ sixth championship.
There were two aspects to that time period. One, I remember listening to the radio in a parking lot with my sister and her boyfriend when John Stockton hit the three that got the Jazz to their first finals appearance.
And then when Jordan hit that shot in the Jazz’s second finals appearance, I was at a cabin in Driggs, Idaho watching this very bad TV that couldn’t get the greatest reception, and I remember being on the verge of tears when he made that shot. It took me years to get over that but it influenced a lot of what I do now with Hoops Project. It made me separate being a fan of a team versus all of the NBA.
04. What makes you gravitate toward basketball as a sport?
That sense of community, the energy you can feel being on the court with other people. And aesthetically, if you’re just watching the way that different players carry themselves. Their style around the court, the way they move around the court, the form of a jump shot, or lines on the court itself. There’s a lot about basketball that’s aesthetically pleasing and beautiful.
05. Who’s a player you find aesthetically inspiring?
I remember seeing images of when Michael Jordan was in the dunk contest wearing that gold chain. I don’t remember seeing anyone else wearing any sort of jewelry in an event like that. And he was kind of the first player to start wearing baggier shorts. I just think that sense of style and, not to mention, the way he played the game were so aesthetically pleasing that it just feels like a source of inspiration. People want to emulate him now when they’re doing a jump shot.
06. How did you design the aesthetic Hoop Projects?
Starting with the type. I wanted something that was tried and true and could do a lot of heavy lifting for me. The colors are ever-changing and will adapt based on whatever project I’m doing. Right now it’s the Los Angeles Lakers, so there’s a soft yellow and purple on the website and social media. And then it’ll be Michael Jordan and the final shot he made with the Chicago Bulls, so it’ll change to all black, red, and white.
And then there are moments of illustration that will remain the same. I worked with this illustrator Jordan Awan to create these characters that feel fun and help lighten the mood behind this whole project.
07. What’s your favorite type of basketball to play?
Standard five-on-five pick up is my favorite. I love having a full team to play with.
I don’t want to limit myself to a specific team. I want this project to be about the sport.
08. Dream collaboration?
It’d have to be something with the NBA. I mention All Star Weekend because that seems like an appropriate time for special projects to come into play. I’m a big Jazz fan but I don’t want to limit myself to a specific team. I want this project to be about the sport.
09. What do you want to see more of in the world?
People remaining present.
10. What about in the basketball industry?
Keeping the competition level high, and the respect level even higher. When competition gets involved, people can forget that these players are humans. And then the way fans communicate and act toward players gets lost in a disrespectful way at times. So keeping the level of respect higher than the level of competition is really important between fans and players, and player to player as well.
Check out Will’s upcoming project drops at Hoop Projects.