Updated: Oct 19, 2021
According to the National Sporting Goods Association, more Americans play basketball than any other team sport with over 26 million Americans playing basketball (Logan, 2016). The popularity of the sport has been widely felt around the world, especially with the growth of the top basketball league of North America, the NBA. The NBA is the third most profitable league in the world behind the National Football League and Major League Baseball respectively (Randjelovic, 2020). The popularity of the sport is growing so much that we start to see interest in leagues outside of the NBA. We saw this in the recent development of the G-League, and even in Lavar Ball’s JBA; we see that there is more to North American basketball than the NBA.
That demand was noticed and met by Dave and Evelyn Magley with their formation of a new professional basketball league that would bring professional basketball to a smaller town setting and capture the interest of those people. In addition, this league would bring forth a new added focus on community engagement and outreach. With his former experience playing, coaching and as commissioner of the National Basketball League of Canada (NBLC) coupled together with his visionary of a wife, Evelyn, David became the President of the league while Evelyn became the CEO and from then on TBL was formed and was set for an inaugural season in 2019. The Basketball League would have been finishing its 2nd season at the end of this past May had it not been for COVID19.
One team worth mentioning is the most recent champion of the league, the Albany Patroons. The Patroons’ legacy in minor league basketball is one of champions and one of some of the finest coaches the sport has ever seen on any level. Legendary NBA coach Phil Jackson brought the Patroons to a CBA championship in 1984 before going on to the NBA and becoming the icon that he is. The 1991 CBA champion version of the Patroons was led by another legendary NBA coach, George Karl. His assistant that year was Terry Stotts, later to be head coach of the Portland Trailblazers in the NBA. The history of the Albany Patroons shows the standard and the prestige that the club has, and the standard and prestige that is being brought to TBL.
Sports are nothing without drama. Prior to the 2020 season, it was announced that the league’s first champions and runner-up for the 2019 season, The Yakima SunKings would not be returning for the next edition of the league the following year due to financial issues. This was a massive blow to the league as the SunKings were a top team in the previous seasons. The loss of the Sun Kings and a few other teams was not fully felt since the 2020 season was cut short due to COVID19. With nine teams leaving and ten teams joining the league since the first season, issues of sustainability arise. The league is answering those questions by adding three new teams for the upcoming season. The first two were the Little Rock Lightning (AR) and the Syracuse Stallions (NY). And, as of Monday June 15, the third new team has been announced, the Anderson Aces (IN).
With the growing number of opportunities that are being given to basketball players with dreams of playing professionally, the landscape of professional basketball in North America is definitely changing. The classic structure of High School, College, and then to the Pros is becoming more of an option rather than a necessity. More players looking to go through a more direct route can only mean an increase in talent for the smaller leagues in North America, like TBL. This could create a higher standard of basketball in North America, but really, only time will tell.
This piece was written by Enrique Ortiz, a common contributor for Globally Ballin
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Logan, C. (2018, December 5). The Effects of the Game of Basketball on America. Retrieved June 13, 2020, from https://www.sportsrec.com/6534424/the-effects-of-the-game-of-basketball-on-america
Moss, M. (2019, October 29). SunKings will not be returning for a third season. Retrieved June 13, 2020, from https://kimatv.com/sports/content/sunkings-will-not-be-returning-for-a-third-season
Randjelovic, D. (2020, June 03). 11 Most Profitable Sports Leagues - Their Value Will Surprise You. Retrieved June 13, 2020, from https://apsportseditors.org/others/most-profitable-sports-leagues/
The Basketball League. (n.d.). Retrieved June 13, 2020, from https://thebasketballleague.net/
Wilkin, T. (2019, April 07). Patroons trying to make it work. Retrieved June 13, 2020, from https://www.timesunion.com/sports/article/Patroons-13748369.php