As commissioner of one of New York City’s longstanding pickup basketball games, Dan Feigin always knew where he would be every Saturday morning: inside the subterranean gymnasium at Trevor Day School in Manhattan, where he has worked for nearly three decades as a teacher, coach and administrator.
But for the first time since 1992, the game has been shelved indefinitely because of the coronavirus pandemic. And even as the N.B.A. and other sports leagues begin to outline their plans for comebacks in the age of social distancing, weekend warriors like Feigin are coping with basketball-shaped voids in their lives.
“I wander around the house,” Feigin said in a recent telephone interview. “My wife is like, ‘What are you doing?’ I don’t know what I’m doing!”
Feigin, 50, calls his game the Saturday Morning Run — popularly known among its members as “The Run” or “S.M.R.” — and he has a massive collection of T-shirts to prove it. This year’s edition comes stamped with the Roman numeral XXVIII, to commemorate the game’s 28 years of existence. Feigin distributed the shirts in February to The Run’s regulars during a weekend retreat to Milwaukee, where his twin brother, Peter, works as the president of the Bucks.
But there are also long-range shooters who work in retail sales and small forwards who direct nonprofits, photographers and writers, students and teachers.
Basketball is the great equalizer.
“I’ve never seen less arguing in a serious pickup game,” said Adam Keefe, a former N.B.A. power forward, who lives in Southern California but joins The Run whenever he travels to New York for his job in finance. “It’s kind of like the unwritten rule: Don’t argue about anything. People who do argue are kind of not allowed back.”
The Run’s roots date to the early 1980s, when Lee became childhood friends with the Feigin brothers. They called themselves “The Magic Three” as middle school teammates on the Upper East Side. After college, Dan Feigin got a job at Trevor teaching English and coaching sports, which meant one important thing: He had access to a gymnasium in New York City, where indoor hoops are more precious than parking spaces.
“I thought I’d hit the jackpot,” Feigin said. “That was my dream of dreams when I was a kid: Oh, my God. I’ve got the keys to a gym.”
His brother and Lee were just as excited. One Saturday, they gathered with some of their other pals — including d’Amboise, who had been playing hoops with them for years — and The Run was born. None could have anticipated how it would grow over the years, or the motley crew of characters who would be drawn to it.
“I always joke that we could run a country,” d’Amboise said.
Every Wednesday, Dan Feigin, now the director of Trevor’s Upper School on the Upper East Side, sends a mass email to determine who will be playing that weekend. There are follow-up emails if his friends are slow to respond. But usually, The Run comprises a core group of 15 to 20 players who range from 16 to 58 years old.
Feigin is in charge of divvying up the five-man teams at the start of the session — and typically includes himself on the strongest squad. (There are perks to being commissioner.) The first game goes to 9 points, and every game after that goes to 7. Since 3-pointers are worth 2 points and 2-pointers are only worth 1, there is a strong premium on outside shooting. Defenders are responsible for calling fouls. There is an honor system.
“If someone kills you, they’ll give you the ball,” Dan Feigin said.
Alex Woodhouse, 34, a photographer and musician who was a three-year starter at Colgate, joined the game in his mid-20s at the urging of a friend. Woodhouse had no idea what to expect. He was unfamiliar with Lasry, then his friend filled him in.
“A billionaire? With a ‘B’?” Woodhouse recalled asking him.
But if Woodhouse had any qualms about digging in on defense against various titans of industry, he quickly learned that everyone was competitive.
“If you’re not playing defense, they’re going to call you out,” said Woodhouse, who would temper his Friday night activities in anticipation of The Run. “If I’m 25 and struggling to get up and down the court because I was out with my friends, and these guys who are running companies are showing up and playing ball, then I have no excuse. It became such a healthy place to be.”
The Run also often doubles as a day care. If you lose, that might mean you need to keep an eye on several of your friends’ toddlers. Back when the Feigins’ (now teenage) sons were much younger, Lasry suspected that Peter or Dan would give them a secret signal to scamper onto the floor if their team was losing.
“That’s just my view,” Lasry said. “But I could swear by the 10th time it happened, it was not an accident.”
More recently, Tom Kearns, a mental health counselor and one of The Run’s longtime staples, has been bringing his 12-year-old daughter, Sophia, so she can shoot hoops on the side with Dan Feigin’s 12-year-old daughter, Dylan. Afterward, a big group heads to City Diner on Broadway for brunch.
“It’s really a family,” Kearns said.
In all, about 100 players have played in The Run over the decades, some more luminous than others. When Lee was shooting his film “The Best Man,” he brought the actors Taye Diggs and Morris Chestnut to the gym. Lasry, who has been active in Democratic Party politics, has invited various campaign staffers. And everyone was thrilled when Keefe showed up.
“We love good players,” Dan Feigin said.
But no matter how skilled the player, new members are included on a probationary basis.
“Sometimes it goes up for judicial review to make sure the run is harmonious,” Lee said. “Do we want this guy to keep playing? Does he pass enough? Does he play defense?”
And if a new player does not endear himself to the group, it tends to reflect poorly on whoever invited him in the first place.
“That’s a stain on your career,” Dan Feigin said.
Before life as we knew it went on hiatus in March, Peter Feigin was occasionally returning to New York from Milwaukee for weekend visits — and to rejoin The Run, which has become multigenerational. Peter’s son, Thomas, and Dan’s son, Jackson, are both high school juniors and excellent players. They cause matchup problems for their fathers’ friends.
“Being able to play ball with your son is kind of like the best of the best,” Peter Feigin said. “It’s like winning the life lottery.”
Now, the lockdown has forced some of The Run’s longstanding members to confront their athletic mortality. Lasry, 60, had already become less of a regular presence in recent years. “As you get older, it’s just harder to keep up with everybody,” he said.
Lee, 50, has worked to keep in shape by doing yoga and shooting hoops in his backyard. But he worries about the physical effects of another extended layoff. Last year, he was sidelined for several months while he recovered from an eye injury he had sustained in The Run. His sabbatical included a lengthy stint in Los Angeles on the set of “Space Jam 2.” After he finally made his return to The Run in January, his comeback was cut short by the pandemic.
“I never wanted to be that guy with the goggles and the knee brace and the tucked-in shirt being like, ‘Hey! Who’s got next?’ ” Lee said. “If I become that guy, I don’t need to play anymore. But I’m getting close to being that guy.”
His friends, while the games are suspended, are trying to stay as prepared as possible. Kearns has been shooting at an abandoned hoop that he discovered behind a train station in Connecticut. Peter Feigin is riding his Peloton bike. And Dan Feigin still has keys to Trevor’s gym, which he has been putting to use — by himself.
The entire Saturday morning crew has done a few Zoom calls. But while it is nice to connect, Kearns described the calls as “artificial sweetener.” It is not the same.
“You miss falling on the ground,” Dan Feigin said. “You miss making a game-winning shot. You miss throwing that pass. You can’t replicate that.”