Every morning, kids across the country wake up with dreams of playing in the NBA. They want to dunk. They want to shoot threes. They want to be MVP. They want to be the next Steph Curry or LeBron James. And thanks to social media, it feels like those stars are closer than ever.
In reality, though, the pros are still quite distant from where most kids are. You might see there tweets or Snaps, but you’re not going to shoot around with them or ask for advice on how to make it to the NBA.
Carl George and two-time NBA champion Mark Aguirre want to change that with Champions Basketball League. Launched at an event in New York in August, it’s a new platform for professional basketball players to showcase their skills and connect with fans.
“Connectivity is really the currency for us,” said league CEO Carl George.
The league will include 16 teams and feature former NBA players who wish to prolong their careers. Players are eligible to join within five years of their last NBA season. Games will be played in local college arenas.
The first team introduced into the league is the Gotham Ballers, a team based in New York. The Ballers are led by Knicks legends and composed primarily of former Knicks players like four-time All-Star Shawn Marion and NBA champion Eddy Curry. Hall of Famers Walt Frazier and Earl Monroe run the front office.
Fan proximity and accessibility are both major parts of the Champions League formula. Tickets to games will cost just $25. Kids will have the opportunity to shoot around with players before games, and meet and greets will be held after games.
“The kids are gonna be able to come up and talk these guys, touch them,” Frazier said. “I think that’s very important. These guys could really have an impact on our kids as positive role models.”
Former Knick and current Baller Al Harrington had an affordable shoe line during his NBA playing days as a way to serve young fans. He said the service to fans that Champions will provide is more exciting to him than actually playing basketball.
“To be able to give kids the opportunity to come up and talk to us, and for us to really be able to have an effect on their lives,” he said.
Harrington shared a story of a young boy he met who was previously unmotivated, but became eager to follow his lead and work out after meeting him. “That’s the type of impact we’re going to be able to have on these kids,” he added.
During the offseason, teams will travel around the country for charity events and exhibition games. Many of these initiatives will target schools and military bases, proving further that Champions is about much more than playing basketball.
“A big part of this is in fact our social responsibility — our ability to connect to the military, our ability to be in schools,” George said.
Champions Basketball League already does community outreach all over the country. This year, players and coaches have held clinics at Boys & Girls Clubs and visited schools to hold nutritional programs.
Champions is scheduled to kick off its first season next July. In the meantime, the other 15 teams will be announced, and players will continue to travel the country to connect with — and inspire — fans.
Photos: Champions League