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Mayans, yes Mayans, love basketball

Some 50 years ago, an area was cleared, hoops were erected and the town of San Pedro La Laguna, nestled at the foot of a volcano in Guatemala's southwestern shore, had its first basketball court. No matter that the court was made of dirt then. Today, that same ground houses the town's municipal court. By day, children participate in dribbling drills to later show off their Kyrie Irving moves or Steph Curry skills. Beginning in the 1980s, NBA games were televised, and the sport's popularity grew. The rest is history.

The local Hoyas and Cavaliers square off in the municipal court of Salcajá, a town in Guatemala's southwestern shore and 15 miles from San Pedro La Laguna. Salcajá is famous for the San Jacinto Church, founded in 1524 and the oldest in Central America. Basketball is a popular pastime as indigenous communities embrace the game.

Kids listen to a pep talk by the coaches at the community sport center in San Pedro La Laguna. Basketball tournaments, practices and promotion of the sport are handled by the town's Junta Municipal de Baloncesto.

A woman watches a pick-up game from an adjacent marketplace in San Pedro La Laguna's municipal court.

Josué González Ixmata carries a poster of his favorite team, the one that featured a certain No. 23. Josué plays for the Ice team and claims he has been passionate about the game since his mother played basketball as she was carried him in the womb.

Cousins Lorenzo (left) and Johala Teresa, clutching a basketball, ride a boat to their hometown of San Pedro La Laguna after hanging out in nearby Panajachel.

Rising water levels from a lake flood a basketball court next to Lago Atitlán.

Women play basketball in traditional Mayan garb, in the town of Cantel. Taught by American missionaries and able to watch NBA games on cable TV, the group says they enjoy the camaraderie and freedom while playing the game.

Fans pack into the municipal sports center in San Pedro La Laguna to cheer on their favorite teams.

Reyna Balán Bizzaro closely guards her cousin Henry Lorenzo during a 2-on-2 with her mother Maria Cristina and father Elvis Marcelo in their backyard court.

The Cavaliers huddle up on the municipal basketball court in Salcajá, with the San Jacinto Church in the background, the oldest in Central America.

The talented Ghost team (in yellow), play their inaugural game of the season in San Cristóbal Totonicapán. The town is known for producing quality basketball players with many going on to play for the national team or in Guatemala's domestic league.

Local women from San Cristóbal Totonicapán sit courtside and add to the pageantry of the season's inaugural basketball game.

Sporting jerseys of their favorite NBA team, youngsters take part in drills. Most practice at least twice a week at the community center in San Pedro La Laguna, learning technique and sportsmanship.

Ana Ajcac Sacarias, 13, listens to her coach. "I watch the NBA games because I learn from them, and if they can do it I can," she said.

Onlookers standing outside the marketplace in San Pedro La Laguna watch a young girl dribble a basketball around cones.

Josué González Ixmata (left) sits with his mother María and younger brother Manuel in his room, adorned with basketball jerseys and memorabilia.

Children line up for a drill at the community sport center that is located between a church, a plaza and a marketplace in San Pedro La Laguna.

Johala Teresa shoots a foul shot, while cousin Lorenzo waits to grab the rebound, under the watchful rendering of a Michael Jordan mural in the Panajachel municipal gym.