The legends' shoes still squeak on the hardwood. You can imagine the training sessions that Rocket Moses Malone, reigning MVP of the NBA in 1982, gave a novice Nigerian hoopster named Akeem (later changed to Hakeem) Olajuwon. Even today at Fonde Community Center, you might see pickup games among Rockets, Cougars and Owls. And there's a chance you'll witness a legend-in-the-making -- like Sheryl Swoopes playing against the men, because, well, she's Sheryl Swoopes.
Year-round youth leagues, winter and summer adult leagues, and the occasional NCAA-sanctioned league bring organization to the talent that flocks to the courts. Then there's open play, where you can test your skills against some of the city's best players. Of course, there's no guarantee you'll see any pros, much less try to drive the lane on them. (C'mon, you think you could?) But you might set a pick on -- or more likely get picked by -- a future star...or at least a worthy opponent. Open daily. 9 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. for pickup games, 5:45 p.m. to 9 p.m. for league games. 110 Sabine. For information, call 713-226-4466.-- Eric Norvell
Houston's got a lot to offer, but mountains and hills aren't on the list. Fortunately, if you're rock-climbing curious, the Texas Rock Gym boasts more than 6,000 square feet of climbing walls. While hanging off a wall clutching little protrusions may sound difficult, the folks at Texas Rock claim it's easy. If you can climb stairs, they say, then you can climb rocks. Noon to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; noon to 11 p.m. Fridays; 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturdays; and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays. 9716 Old Katy Road, suite 102. For information, call 713-973-ROCK. Day pass: $9.50. -- Cathy Matusow
Feeling guilty about mindless hours wasted playing Grand Theft Auto: Vice City? Fish your brain out of that gutter of killing and mayhem, and drive (safely) to the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center. The 155-acre botanic garden and nature preserve offers hiking, adult naturalist classes and kids' programs. Guided tours (insect repellent included) are led every weekend and run about 45 minutes. Remember: Every living thing in the arboretum is protected. So don't stomp on the flowers or stuff pinecones in your pockets, and leave the snakes and turtles alone. Virtual sniper rifles strictly prohibited. Tours begin at 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Houston Arboretum and Nature Center, 4501 Woodway Drive. For information, call 713-681-8433. Free. -- Troy Schulze
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