by Bryan Crawford / @_BryanCrawford
Michael Jordan has long since left the Bulls and professional basketball as a player, but his name, legacy and the reach of his Jordan Brand label in the City of Chicago continues to carry on strong. Each and every summer MJ makes his presence felt in the community by sponsoring basketball related events, and over the last two weekends I was fortunate enough to be present at two of them. Here’s a quick recap of each, along with a Q+A with two-time All-Star Michael Finley:
Jordan Brand 40+ League
Every summer Jordan Brand sponsors a basketball league for men 40-years-old and over starting in June and culminating with a championship game in August. Last weekend the championship was held at University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, an elite K-12 day school located in Chicago’s prestigious Hyde Park neighborhood.
Although Jordan himself didn’t attend, Chicago hoops legends such as Proviso East standout Sherrell Ford and former Phoenix Suns guard Paul McPherson were in the house to watch an exciting game between CL Fitness Inc. (led by 15-year NBA veteran and current TV commentator, Kendall Gill, along with former University of Illinois standout Marcus Liberty) and The Family (led by suburban hoops legend and 7-year NBA veteran, Sam Mack).
In a game that wasn’t decided until the final 2 minutes of regulation, Gill and Liberty’s CL Fitness squad (who finished in last place the previous summer) defeated The Family to take this year’s championship in a game that was indeed a thriller.
Said Gill on the victory, “It feels good to come up big and win a championship, especially in a close game. This team wasn’t even supposed to win [a championship]; we were supposed to be out in the first round. That’s why it’s pleasing to win it.”
Tony McCoy — CEO of Sports Factory Inc. and one of MJ’s good friends — is commissioner of the league and was pleased with not only the game itself, but the fan turnout (it was standing room only) and the growth of the league in what is now its 5th season.
“I’m excited and happy with the way the league has grown,” said McCoy. “Today, as you can see, we had Kendall Gill and Sam Mack go at it. We also had Jamie Brandon (former King HS and LSU star) and Marcus Liberty play [this summer]. When former NBA guys and Chicago legends come out to play, it raises the competition level. This is my 5th year putting it on and it’s gotten bigger and bigger every year. Like I’ve said before, every year somebody turns 40 and it makes the league that much better.”
Shawn Zanotti, CEO of Exact Publicity (the PR firm who for the last 3 years has handled all of the behind-the-scenes duties that makes this such a successful event every summer) was also pleased with this year’s Jordan Brand 40+ League.
“This year was absolutely wonderful. We really wanted to focus this year on getting the community involved, so it wasn’t just about the games, it was more of trying to show a community effort of positive people not only playing basketball, but playing basketball for a good cause.
“And every single year it gets better and better. This year, by far, was the best year and to have person after person come up to me and say that they enjoyed it, it means so much.”
According to McCoy, the league isn’t going anywhere and he says that you can expect next summer to be even bigger than the previous summers. So if you’re in the Chicago area between June and August next year, make sure to stop by and check it out.