It all started with a dollar and a dream. A visionary beyond the likes we’ve ever seen in the sports world seeking to disrupt any and everything we’ve grown to know as conventional.
LaVar Ball, CEO of Big Baller Brand announced his plans to start a professional basketball league for young, aspiring hoopers last December who desired to do something bigger than themselves and buck conventional wisdom by sidestepping a flawed and unjust system, which is the NCAA.
For a league that wasn’t even supposed to get off the ground (according to skeptics), the JBA League completed its first season on August 12th and are now doing the unthinkable (again) by taking the top players overseas for an international tour.
The mere thought of this is beyond comprehension that it was only fitting I evoke the spirits of A Tribe Called Quest as they started their own “Award Tour” almost 30 years ago (more on this later).
One of the more impressive aspects about this tour is the fact that 12-14 young men will have the opportunity to represent their country while traveling to almost 20 different countries along the way. To think, most of these players would probably be like most of us who dream of venturing to parts of Europe and Asia, yet they’re getting the opportunity to do this before they’re old enough to consume an alcoholic beverage.
Imagine waking up wondering what your next move in life is going to be, and then realizing with a phone call, it changes instantly. Take Nate Morris for instance. Morris was a former Division I player for the Ole Miss Rebels who was dismissed from the program after his second arrest. While working part-time, making less than $1,500 a month, Morris received a call to join the JBA League. Realizing a second chance to play the game he loves — and get paid — the decision was easy, and he was signed by the Dallas Ballers. His addition was paramount to their turnaround, and after making the All-Star team for the West, he was selected to be a part of the JBA USA squad.
This story is not uncommon for many of these players. Most had limited options, and the options they had were not apropos of what they ultimately wanted to do in life. Just play basketball. That’s it. No school, not studying for tests and partying in frat houses — just a basketball and a gym.
Fast forward now and these young men, ranging from 17 to 22 years old, are living their dreams. Not vicariously, but in the flesh. The JBA USA Team touched down yesterday in Denmark as they prepare to face the Svendborg Rabbits of the Basketligaen League on Saturday, September 22nd.
From there, they will travel throughout Europe, then to China, Japan, and end in the Philippines. If you would have asked any of these players (save for LiAngelo and LaMelo who’ve already played overseas) a few months ago when they planned to travel throughout the eastern hemisphere, they could not have given you an answer.
Now, they can — because they’re already there.
Who knows what the future holds for these players and how they will fare against the professional teams overseas, but the experience alone will all be worth it. As I revert back to the old school hip hop legends of Q-Tip and Phife Dawg (and even new school, Wale for the change in lyrics),
“They’re on a world tour with LaVar and the Brand going each and every country with a ball in their hand.”
And all it started with was a dollar and a dream.
Brandon Williams is a columnist for the JBA League. Follow him on Twitter at @TalkinWithFresh.