Half a decade ago, the NBA was in a lockout and pros not only wanted to get quality run in, but wanted to give back to the community and have fans watch them in a hype atmosphere. While they’re still killing it out on the left coast, many pro-ams have taken a drastic hit on the other side of the country. Not the Atlanta Entertainers Basketball League, though.
In its relative infancy, the AEBL has grown in each of its four seasons. In a city in which hip-hop and basketball are completely intertwined, the two cross paths on the regular and this was no different. Quavo from Migos and MMG artist Stalley were a couple who popped in during finals weekend. NBA players such as Dwight Howard, Lou Williams, Cameron Payne, Adreian Payne, Jarrett Jack and Anthony Morrow made appearances throughout the season.
“It’s been really great seeing how big of an impact that we’re making in the community with our support. My squad is 22 staff members including college interns that I want to give hands on experience to. We put over 200 hours in during the summer, not including game time,” AEBL founder Jahi “Jah” Rawlings explained. “Mountain Dew really believed in the vision. Atlanta is a hotbed and everyone lives here, so we have the advantage.”
Final Four weekend brought some upsets, with Goodlife Music Group winning their first AEBL title in a 67-65 victory over 2 Commas Clothing. Here’s a look at the top performers from the Final Four:
Lorenzo Brown, 6-5, PG, Detroit Pistons
After bouncing around with a few NBA teams early in his career, Brown seems to have found a home in Detroit and is taking his game to new heights for ’16-17. The MVP of the AEBL not only led Goodlife to the title, but he almost took the roof off Grady HS with his filthy behind-the-back move that nearly dropped his defender. Zo got to the rack at will, showed off his shifty handle, and made some crazy finishes at the rim. Brown needs to continue to sure up his J to take the next step in his game, but definitely has shown the talent ideal for a developing lead guard.
Lou Williams, 6-2, SG, L.A. Lakers
Just a week after setting the AEBL record by dropping a cool 54 points, Lou Williams saw himself sitting in the final four. Surprisingly, his team took an upset L and he wasn’t able to add another title to his growing list of ATL accolades. The Lakers scorer was automatic from deep, got to the line with ease, and showed off a better handle than you see in the League. A staple of ATL summer hoops, don’t expect Lou to stop playing any time in the near future.
DeAndre Bray, 5-5, PG, Ball Up Streetball
The most exciting dude in the league has received notoriety for his DeAndre Jordan-esque blocks and nearly brought his team to the crown at AEBL. In his squad’s two point loss, “Mosquito” showed off his insane quickness on both ends, drew a ton of offensive fouls, and was the catalyst for 2 Commas. A fixture with Ball Up, you’ll be able to catch Mosquito when he’s on tour next.
Anthony Morrow, 6-5, SG, Oklahoma City Thunder
After losing the perimeter scoring of both KD and Dion Waiters to free agency, the Oklahoma City Thunder have a huge void to fill shooting the rock. Based on his play at the AEBL, Anthony Morrow looks like he may be able to help stop that gap. He showed off effortless range well beyond the three-point line, posted smaller guards, and utilized his size on the glass. The opportunity will definitely be there for Morrow to bomb and get his scoring average back into double figures in ’16-17.
Damien Wilkins, 6-6, SF, Overseas
With his Uncle Dominique watching courtside, Damien showed the why grizzled vets like himself can do work against younger foes in pro-ams. He was killing people from the mid-post, used his size to overpower wings, and was simply craftier than any other player over the weekend. Wilkins provided the veteran leadership that GoodLife needed to take the AEBL crown.
Photos courtesy of the AEBL