The very first game was a movie. No, like, literally. They made a movie out of it.
And it was with that theatrical entrance that the Elite 24 burst into the scene. Eleven years later, the event has emerged into the premier high school basketball All-Star game of each summer.
The aforementioned film, Gunnin' For That #1 Spot, documented eight players in the inaugural 2006 game. Six of those eight players went on to be drafted in the first round of the 2008 or 2009 NBA Drafts. The other two were among the first ten picks in the second round of the 2010 and 2011 Draft classes. Brandon Jennings, Kevin Love, Tyreke Evans, Lance Stephenson and Michael Beasley were among the HS studs from that group, which helped set the stage and raise the bar high for all the players that have followed since, including those that will pick up the torch this week when the 2016 Under Armour Elite 24 festivities return to Brooklyn for a fourth consecutive year.
In that 2006 game, back when Boost Mobile served as the presenting/title sponsor, Jennings (a rising junior at the time) wooed the Rucker Park crowd with an array of nifty dimes on his way to 12 points and 15 assists. His teammate on the White Team, future NBA first-rounder JJ Hickson, posted a game-high 34 points along with eight assists in the losing effort.
For the winning Blue Team, Beasley put up 26 points and nine rebounds, while another future lotto pick in Jerryd Bayless showed off his shooting touch with 15 points. In the end, the Blue squad squeezed out a 141-139 victory.
In ‘07, the game returned to Rucker Park once again, and once again Jennings put on a dishing clinic, handing out a still-standing E24 record of 23 assists to go with 19 points. Meanwhile, Stephenson, who had played in the 2006 game as a rising sophomore but had a quiet night as the youngest player in the game, was ready to show out in front of his hometown crowd this time around. He poured in a game-high 38 points on 17-for-22 shooting from the field. Evans, who also played in the inaugural game, dropped 26 points. The fourth co-MVP award went to current New Orleans Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday, who scored 24.
The next year, Under Armour stepped in and began producing the uniforms for the prestigious all-star showcase. While there were changes to the wardrobe, results on the hardwood remained the same for Stephenson, who for a second consecutive year finished as the game-high scorer, this time posting 29 points. The second-leading scorer was also a New Yorker, as Kentucky-bound Doron Lamb posted 25 points. Meanwhile, a kid out of Raleigh (NC) continued his meteoritic rise up the rankings. His name? John Wall. He threw down a couple of jaw-dropping dunks on his way to 10 points. Former NBAers like Chancey Billups, Rafer Alston and Kenny Anderson even joined in as guest coaches.
The 2009 game was historic, in terms of the variety of logistical changes. It went down as the first and only time in the event’s history that the showcase was played indoors—and not by design. Thunderstorms during warm-ups at Rucker Park ended up moving the game to the historic Gauchos Gym in the Bronx, where the game’s tip-off wouldn’t come till past 10 p.m. But when it did, the action proved to be as top-notch as always.
The local talent once again took center stage, with Lamb, a Lower East Side product, leading all scorers with 23 points (making it three straight years that a New York City native was the game’s highest scorer, for those keeping count). And then there was this kid from the other side of the Hudson River named Kyrie Irving, who dazzled the crowd all night with his crafty ball-handling skills, en route to 16 points. Another prospect from around the way, current Detroit Pistons forward Tobias Harris (a Long Island native) put up 20 points and 5 rebounds for the victorious “Skip To My Lou” squad. Meanwhile high-flying, Baltimore-reppin’ Josh Selby had dunks—specifically a right-handed jam after blowing past now-Sixers guard Kendall Marshall—that caused the crowd to run out onto the court in celebratory fashion.
For the second consecutive year, the Elite 24 had a completely different setting in 2010—this time back outdoors, but on the opposite coast. With the famous courts at Venice Beach in Los Angeles serving as the home floor, the fifth edition of the Elite 24 game provided a new flavor. And while the setting may have changed, some of the faces that came out for this one were familiar. Elite 24 alums Jennings and Evans, who by then had reached the NBA, returned as guest coaches. On the floor, it was Team Raymond Lewis vs. Team Marques Johnson (named after local playground legends) and Kyle Wiltjer led the Lewis squad to a 131-128 victory on the strength of a 20-point co-MVP performance. His teammate for the night, Myck Kabongo, who would go on to star at Texas, also had an impressive outing, finishing with a double-double of 13 points and 10 assists.
The 2011 game, once again held in Venice Beach, brought some flashbacks to the game in ’09, in that the players got on the floor for warm-ups but then the start of the game ended up being pushed back. This delay, though, was for actual basketball-related reasons. Current Oklahoma City Thunder forward Mitch McGary, who at the time was a rising senior, shattered the backboard after a two-handed dunk from an off-the-backboard pass from Aquille Carr. In the process, McGary suffered several cuts to the back of his neck and was ruled out from partaking in the game.
Once a new hoop and backboard was set in place, Carr continued to dish off some crisp passes. The 5-8 guard stuffed the statsheet with 21 points, 10 assists, seven rebounds and four steals. Current San Antonio Spurs forward Kyle Anderson posted 18 points and eight assists while Dallas Mavericks wing Justin Anderson added 23 points for Team Marques Johnson. For the opposing Ray Lew squad, Shabazz Muhammad chipped in 25 points and nine boards.
In 2012, Under Armour became the official title sponsor, taking over for Boost Mobile four years after jumping on board as the uniform outfitter. It was the third consecutive year that the showcase was held on the California boardwalk. Looking back, the fact that Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon and Los Angeles Lakers big Julius Randle were placed on the same team as high schoolers just wasn’t fair. The two combined for 52 points en route to an easy 164-138 victory for Ray Lewis. Randle put up 27 points, making all but one of his 14 shot attempts, while Gordon went 12-for-18 from the floor on his way to 25 points to go along with 7 boards. For Marques Johnson, Justise Winslow added 21 points, while Jabari Bird (now a senior at Cal) chipped in 20.
For 2013, the Under Armour Elite 24 festivities returned to NYC, this time at the Tobacco Warehouse underneath the Brooklyn Bridge. A battle of the point guards emerged between Isaiah Whitehead (recently drafted by the Brooklyn Nets) and Emmanuel Mudiay (now the starting PG of the Denver Nuggets). Whitehead, a Brooklyn native who attended famed Lincoln High in Coney Island, clearly had the home court advantage, his hometown crowd cheering his every move. The matchup became a back-and-forth battle, in which at one point both would go at each other for consecutive possessions. In the end, Whitehead led all scorers (the fourth time an NYC native would lead the game in scoring—for those still keeping count), with 26 points, including four treys, to give Team Coney Island a 114-109 victory over Team Bed Stuy. Mudiay, who announced his later-irrelevant college commitment to SMU at halftime, put together a 22-point outing to accompany his seven rebounds, five assists, and three steals.
In 2014, the game remained in Kings County but this time moved a few blocks over to the Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 2 waterfront. With the downtown Manhattan skyline in the backdrop, the No. 3 pick in this past June’s NBA Draft, Jaylen Brown, led all scorers with 23 points, as the new Boston Celtic helped lead Team Liberty to a 127-117 win over Team Freedom. Josh Jackson (headed to Kansas this fall) led Liberty with 22 points, despite only being a rising junior at the time.
Last year, with the game returning to Pier 2, standouts like Edrice Adebayo (who put up 21 points and 8 rebounds), Jackson (who ended the night with 12 points and 7 rebounds) and incoming Duke freshman Frank Jackson (who went for 20 points, including a 360-dunk in-game jam) were being talked about the most. In terms of high-flying athletes, newly-signed UA endorser Terrance Ferguson—who this summer opted to turn pro in Australia rather than play college ball at Arizona—and TJ Leaf, an incoming freshman at UCLA, had the crowd buzzing.
Now, as the Elite 24 prepares to welcome in its second decade of existence this weekend, the popularity and reach of the festivities seems to have hit new heights. It has expanded from just an all-star game for the prep level's cream of the crop to now giving middle schoolers a platform to also showcase their skills—on the same customized hardwood floor with the panoramic backdrop of the NYC skyline in an undercard game prior to the real Elite 24 action. Not only that, but as Under Armour Association (UA's summer youth circuit) continues to build up its roster, which this summer included top-5 Class of 2017 prospect Trevon Duval, the game has given the Baltimore-born brand yet another stage to showcase its bright future.
While the E24 has seen some changes over the years, it remains true to its mission: uniting 24 of the top prospects in the nation, regardless of class, for an outdoor showcase at the end of summer.
This year’s game, too, promises to be—as the kids might say—a “movie.”