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The Basketball Tournament — The Newest Form of Madness

TBT

32 teams. $500,000. Single Elimination. If those terms don’t entice you, i don’t know what will if you are still looking to see some basketball after the NCAA and NBA seasons end. “The Basketball Tournament” or TBT for short is a new semi-pro/amateur tournament that will take place for the first time this year and it is all fan based.

Here’s how it works. Teams can register themselves on the website and then depend on friends, family, and fans to vote them into the tournament. This season there were 59 teams eligible for the tournament which will tip-off during the first week of June in Philadelphia. Of those 54 teams, the top 24 teams in terms of registered fans on the tournament’s website were guaranteed spots in the single elimination tournament. The remaining eight teams are chosen by the tournament’s creators to fill out the 32 teams.

Teams can consist of any player as long as they aren’t playing NCAA basketball or their individual professional contracts won’t allow it. So what you have is a mix of NBA players, former college superstars, NBA D-Leaguers, players playing overseas in Europe and amateurs. There isn’t scouting on opposing teams or game tapes, just teams getting together to play basketball.

Some notable teams are the 2009 Villanova Final Four team with All-American Scottie Reynolds, the 2010 Cornell Sweet Sixteen team, Barstool Sports teams, and several other regionally based squads.To get more of an understanding of the concept, I sat down with three representatives from my local area team “DMV’s Finest.”

DMV’s finest are composed of players that played their college or high school ball in the Maryland and Washington DC areas. I sat down with player/coach John Auslander (Maryland), Erik Etherly (Loyola), and the team’s general manager Ross Aroyo, yes this league has general managers. Aroyo and his team are playing in honor Zach Lederer, a former Maryland basketball manager who passed away last month after battling with cancer. Aroyo is also a manager with the Maryland basketball team and it was agreed that they were playing for Zach.

Some of the other players on the team include Georgetown’s Chris Wright and Austin Freeman, Clemson’s Jerai Grant, Maryland’s Logan Aronhalt, USF’s Augustus Gilchrist, Charlotte’s Chris Braswell and Mount St. Mary’s Rashad Whack along with Auslander and Etherly. Auslander, who is excited to be the team’s player coach, says that this tournament is very different from anything else that these players have been involved in.

“The toughest part is going to be having just a few practices. I have always wanted to get into coaching but, it’s going to be a lot of on-the-fly ideas.” He added “It is going to be a lot of fun being in that setting and playing with a lot of guys that you don’t know that well and just seeing how we can compete.”

Auslander will be coaching players that are his age and older on the team, but Etherly isn’t worried about his coach “It’s good because he played college ball and knows where we are all coming from. He understands how we think and he knows all the best ways to get through to the other players.”

Now of course these guys are excited to be playing basketball with strong competition, but every team wants the money prize. Even though DMV’s Finest will be giving a strong portion of their winnings, if they win, towards the Zach Lederer Foundation, They are hoping to pocket some money themselves. Every player on every team is given a salary by their general managers, which represents how much money they will take home. Some team’s vary with their distribution plans and some are going to give every player the same amount. You can find out each player’s “salary” on the tournament’s website http://www.thetournament.com/ .

Though the games don’t start until June and a lot of the participants are either in Europe or in some cases, the NBA Playoffs, Auslander is looking at rosters and checking game tapes before his team meets for their first of very few practices. “Some teams are full of big NBA players and other’s like the Nova 2009 team are guard based, so it’s hard to gameplan.” But Etherly and Auslander aren’t worried about other teams saying that they have a great deal of talent.

If you are wondering how NBA players are allowed to play in this type of tournament, Aroyo told us that it goes back to Michael Jordan, who had a clause in contract called “For the Love of the Game.” The clause stated that Michael could play on any public court during the offseason for any reason at anytime because he loved the game so much. And if Michael wanted that clause, so did the rest of the NBA. Now of course most of these players will be veterans of the league instead of up and coming guys who are fighting for their first big contract.

As for the longevity of a tournament like this, Aroyo says “As long as the investors keep coming back with $500,000, I don’t see why this tournament couldn’t last for a decade.” 

If you want to learn more about the league or join the DMV’s Finest fanbase, visit the website which is linked earlier in the article. Registered fans can win all kinds of prizes including a trip for ten to Las Vegas, so check out the website.

Scott Zolotorow