Philly legends suit up in The-BALL showcase
Who's Arthur Lee? Great question.
You may not remember him. Or you may be genuinely excited to hear his name for the first time in over a decade.
In the immediate, he's the inspiration for the new Basketball Alumni Legends League, which staged the second leg of its two-day showcase Sunday night at Saint Joseph's University. Team Washington D.C. defeated Team Philadelphia, 102-94, erasing a fourth-quarter deficit to take both games in the weekend set.
And as happy as he was to see his vision finally take shape, the first player BALL founder Michael Wranovics could think of wasn't even on the floor. It was Arthur Lee.
"I've been working on [The-BALL] for three years, but it's been in my head a lot longer than that,” Wranovics said. "I'm from the West Coast. I went to Stanford for grad school and became a big Stanford hoops fan.
"We had a point guard there named Arthur Lee, who carried Stanford to the Final Four [in 1998] and went up against Jason Terry on senior night and dominated him. Terry ends up having this great NBA career and we never got to see Art Lee again.
"So I just started thinking about the fact that excellent, beloved players like Art Lee don't make it to the NBA in a lot of cases. And I started asking myself, 'How many Arthur Lees are there?' And it turns out, there's a lot."
You still may not remember Lee, but how about Dionte Christmas, Mark Tyndale, Ryan Brooks, Ramone Moore, Dustin Salisbery, Curtis Sumpter, Rodney Green, Frank Elegar, Scott Rodgers, Tasheed Carr, Dwayne Jones and Pat Carroll?
Those were the names on the Philly roster Sunday night, guys who once ignited local arenas, but have since moved on with their lives and careers. Wranovics is hoping to lure those kinds of players, and the fans who once followed them, to his new league, which will take place during the summers so they won’t interrupt other professional seasons.
The challenge for the league, beyond getting purists to buy into several tweaks in the game, will be finding owners in cities who want to participate. The D.C. team already has an owner in place, while Wranovics and his staff – comprised of former CBA commissioner Gary "Bear" Hunter and former D-League president Phil Evans – are in the process of looking for the same in Philly as they prepare for the BALL's inaugural season in Summer 2013. The goal is to have a four-team league playing an eight-game schedule next year and an 8-to-12 team league playing a 24-game slate in 2014.
But beyond the extra opportunity to display their talents, the league is a chance for local alumni to take the floor with the same guys they once played with and against.
"Any time I can represent Philadelphia, I would love to," Christmas, the former Temple Owl and newest Boston Celtic, said, expressing his interest in the future of the league. "Just to come back and team up with some of my Big 5 rivals … it's cool. So every year they have this, and I'm available, I'm definitely on-board."
"It went well," Moore agreed. "Me, [Christmas], [Brooks], [Tyndale] and [Salisbery], we all took pride in representing Temple … We all just want to be a part of Philly basketball."
In an effort to differentiate itself, The-BALL has implemented a few new rules. Tip-offs start every quarter, "and-ones" are automatically converted into a three-point point plays, non-shooting-foul free throws are worth two points, teams don't enter the bonus until 16 personals are recorded, it's literally impossible to the play the foul game late in contests and, last but not least, there's a four-point line, which extends the shooter 25 feet from the basket. It's a line Christmas and former Georgetown standout Jason Clark took advantage of when they dropped team-highs of 14 and 25, respectively.
For his part, the ex-Wildcat Sumpter, who alongside Saint Joseph's Carroll played his last game as a professional on Sunday night (see story)
, likes the alterations.
"For one, guys have to play smart," he said. "[You] have to, at the end of games, concentrate more. As you can see, you can be up and then lose in a couple possessions. [Former Georgetown Hoya and Team D.C.'s] Chris Wright had a three-point play and a four-point shot in maybe ten seconds."
The two-day tip-off – the first half took place on the campus of George Washington University in D.C. – allowed fans, and the players themselves, to get an early feel for what the league could become. There was no official attendance announced, though hundreds sat in the stands at SJU's Hagan Arena on Sunday. Wranovics thought a violent thunderstorm shortly before the game's start may have kept some away, but seemed generally pleased about how the weekend went otherwise.
"It's a great atmosphere and the basketball has been outstanding," he said. "We've definitely got some talent. We know we have a great product and we're just getting started. So little by little, I think this is a solid beginning and we're just going to keep taking it to higher heights."
The likely spots for expansion are cities like Philly and D.C., areas with multiple colleges in a close proximity that would be able to recruit former players to play for their adoptive hometowns and with their former rivals. Wranovics mentioned New York, Syracuse, Hartford, Boston, Charlotte, Raleigh, Richmond and Lehigh Valley. The league's website also mentions mentions Jacksonville, Atlanta and Chattanooga.
"We want to do this with the proper steps and not rush anything," he said "That's what this showcase is all about.
"It's all about college basketball hotbeds and having well-known, popular players from the local schools playing all summer long."E-mail Nick Menta at firstname.lastname@example.org