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Olympic-inspired street basketball grows in London

Laszlo Balogh / Reuters

Youths play basketball at a neighborhood court on the eve of the opening ceremony for the London 2012 Olympic Games in Lewisham, south London, on July 26. Enthusiasm over Britain's Olympic basketball team has filled London's street-ball courts, offering hope for the domestic game.

Laszlo Balogh / Reuters

A youth holds a basketball at a neighborhood court on the eve of the opening ceremony for the London 2012 Olympic Games in Lewisham, London, on July 26.

Reuters -- A year on from riots that shook British society to its core, the UK's Olympic athletes have a responsibility to show London's young population a different way forward, basketball player Pops Mensah-Bonsu said on Wednesday.

"I was born and raised right behind Tottenham police station, where everything kicked off last year. It really hurt my heart watching all of that happening," Mensah-Bonsu, a former NBA player with the Toronto Raptors, told a news conference ahead of the official opening of the Games on Friday.

Basketball is still firmly a minority sport in the UK but the majority of its players come from London's Afro-Caribbean communities, where friction with the police was the spark for the worst riots in a generation last August.

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