Brand Jordan Summer League Recap
It goes down at ‘The Lab.’
by Bryan Crawford / @_BryanCrawford
I mean, come on… It’s only right that the GOAT has his own summer basketball league, right?
For the past four years, Michael Jordan has leant his name and his time to a league only open to guys 40-years-old and older. But don’t let the age of the participants fool you. Just because guys are older doesn’t make it any less competitive or entertaining. A lot of the players are former Chicago HS hoops legends, D1 college guys, players that have played professionally overseas and even ex-NBA players as well. Besides, you know it’s real when the man himself laces ‘em up and gets it in with the guys as he’s done in the past. Needless to say, it goes down at MJ’s league.
Not only has he participated, he also sponsors the entire event which includes outfitting each team with Jordan Brand uniforms and kicks.
How sweet is that?
The league runs from late June to early August and during that time the competition gets fierce as bragging rights (and a little bit of cash) are on the line since a lot of the guys who play in the league know each other and play together on a regular basis. How serious do people take the league? Serious enough that recruiting actually goes on in the stands. Here is a real conversation that I heard go down right next to me at one of the games:
“Yo, when you turn 40? Next year? OK, you running with me. Get at me.”
So yeah, it’s THAT real out there.
This year the games were moved from Fosco Park, a favorite spot to hoop by several current Chicago-born NBA players, to the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, a prestigious private school in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood which sits on the campus of the University of Chicago.
To hoopers, it’s simply known as ‘The Lab.’ Pickup runs there are by invitation only as current and former college and NBA players get it in on the regular. Even Barack Obama, the current POTUS has hooped there before.
Tony McCoy, the commissioner of the Brand Jordan League runs Sports Factory Inc., a non-profit organization that promotes health and fitness as well as healthy competition for youth and adults. In partnership with Brand Jordan, McCoy and his Sports Factory brand have created a successful tournament that he only expects to grow stronger year after year.
“Every year, somebody turns 40,” said McCoy on the strength of the league. “That keeps the league energized and keeps the competition at a high level.”
McCoy himself is a Chicago native and one of the many basketball players produced by Simeon HS on the South Side. He and Michael Jordan have been friends for years. “That’s my man,” says McCoy on his friendship with Jordan. “We used to play against each other in the summers back in the day and we’ve been cool ever since.”
The appeal of the league goes beyond just the presence and influence of Jordan though. McCoy himself also plays ball on a regular basis and a lot of guys participate on the strength of his name more than anything. The Jordan connection is just the icing on the cake.
But the league is not just about basketball it’s also about raising awareness and giving back to the community, something that Shawn Zanotti, CEO of Exact Publicity, a Chicago based marketing and PR firm, does a very good job of helping McCoy and his Sports Factory company with. “Tony is truly doing a wonderful thing with this league. He’s very involved with helping to make a difference, especially with the kids in the Hyde Park community. I know it sounds cliché, but it really is one person, one child at a time with him.”
So if you’re in The Chi next summer and want to check out some good competitive ball, swing by The Lab and check out one of the Brand Jordan games. You never know, you may just bump into MJ, the man himself over there. And if you hoop and want to get in on some those exclusive, invite only runs, holla at me. I’m a regular over there. I can get you in.