Basketball never sleeps: Your guide to this summer’s best pro-ams
If you’re anything like me, then you too feel like the end of the NBA season is cruel and unusual punishment and should be against the Geneva Convention to endure.
I mean, basketball is hands down the best sports product out right now. I’m sorry, it’s just true.
Baseball is just as they said its always has been: a “pastime”. It’s something to do when you’re folding your laundry, washing dishes, or punishing little kids. Even Sports Center can’t dress up the entertainment of baseball with their daily top 10 sports segment. It’s dry.
And not to be a kill-joy, but football has about ten years left in the tank. Beyond being dubbed the ‘No Fun League’ for things like penalizing player celebrations and even banning NFL team twitter and Facebook accounts from sharing their own video clips of action within NFL stadiums. The average length of NFL careers is decreasing. The game is just too dangerous.
That leaves the NBA as lone king, at least in America. Between continuing a history of promoting social activism, the prevalence of the NBA in pop (hip-hop) culture, and the ever-increasing popularity and skill level of basketball overseas, the NBA could improve on what was a record-breaking year revenue-wise in 2016 and surpass the NFL as America’s top sport.
So whatever are we supposed to do when it leaves us June 18th? I mean, there’s the NBA summer league that starts in July, but surely we can see top tier talent elsewhere? Right?
Fret not. If you’re anything like me and bloodthirsty for all things basketball, there are other options for feeding your hoop fix.
Pro-am leagues are the one thing that makes waiting for the next NBA season bearable. When the NBA had its lockout in 2011, these semi-pro leagues became popular. Pick up games with Kobe Bryant game-winners and Kevin Durant weaving in and out of ordinary players reminded us just how ridiculously talented these guys are.
And when the NBA resumed, the pro-ams remained. They did not have as many NBA stars, but other celebrities and former players who have game came out and really showed us what they had. They were there long before, and they’re not going away.
So here are some leagues you can check out this offseason to hold you over. You’ll never know what you will find.
South Central L.A. is home to so many local legends. In 1973 Alvin Wills, the basketball coach at Charles Drew Middle School decided to start a summer league for the school’s alumni who had since moved onto high school and college.
The six squads that birthed in that alumni reunion have since expanded into the Drew League, a 28-team staple of sports and life in Watts.
Players like (now retired) Kobe Bryant, Brandon Jennings, James Harden, and Nick Young are regulars. In addition to being a hotbed for basketball, this Los Angeles institution routinely attracts L.A. natives to come and dazzle fans with their incredible gifts throughout the offseason.
When it comes to street hoops you cannot overlook the Southeast D.C. George Goodman League. All summer long, games are played six days a week at the Barry Farms Dwellings courts.
Home of D.M.V. natives Victor Oladipo and Kevin Durant, this pro-am definitely attracts big names. But what makes it unique is the Commissioner Miles Rawls who handles the play-by-play.
The ‘Dancing Referee’ — which is what he’s referred to as — is among the main characters as he gives animated commentary on every move.
Nike Pro City Run
Running from June until August, this high-level pro-am basketball league out of New York features talent at every level, from high school to the NBA.
Although Nike Pro City is often known as a streetball league, it’s run indoors and often features some pretty well-known players, including celebrities like Chris Brown.
Nike Pro City basketball in New York City is played in the Hunter College gym at 68th street and Lexington Avenue in Manhattan and full of promising surprises every summer.
San Francisco Pro Am
The Kezar Pavilion in Golden Gate Park has been providing local basketball fans top tier entertainment going on four decades. Pros, college players, and international stars come here every summer to battle in a highly competitive brand of basketball.
Supported by the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department, the league runs from June through August and features evening games Monday through Thursday for the men’s teams and on Saturday afternoons for the women’s.
Players from Aaron Gordon, Jeremy Lin, and even Stephen Curry have all come through to show off their skills in the Bay area. And the best part of all? It’s free.
The Atlanta Entertainment Basketball League (AEBL), was founded by Jahi Rawlings in 2013 and is Atlanta’s newest live sports and entertainment attraction for competitive basketball played by current, former and aspiring NBA players, celebrities, entertainers, and local athletes.
NBA players and Atlanta natives like Lou Williams and Josh Smith are just some the names who have shown up and the league has shown promise of growth.
The Entertainer’s Basketball Classic was established in 1982 and has featured some of the biggest names in NBA history. Michael Jordan, Dr. J, Kobe, Durant, and Lebron are just a couple who have step foot on this legendary blacktop court.
You can say Rucker and the EBC is the godfather of streetball leagues. Most tournaments built their tourneys based on their model with the MC running up and down the court, the sponsorship, even how the courts look. They were the first with fiberglass, they were the first with bleachers. And that’s the way it should go as New York is considered the mecca of basketball.
The Harlem court is rugged and as authentic as they come, with the crowd often times being an arm-length away. In fact, the court is so legendary, many films and television shows, such as “Above the Rim” with Tupac Shakur, and MTV’s “Real Rucker Park Legends”, have been filmed on location.
You see, basketball doesn’t have to be completely over. There are pro-am leagues in most major cities, and while no one knows whether, or which, celeb or NBA player will show up, being able to be a part of a competitive atmosphere brings an excitement that we all need during the long summer months.
Most entries are affordable and if you have skill there are ways to enter the league yourself.
Having more games to watch is never a bad thing, especially if you can get catch a pro or two. Let’s see what this summer has to offer.