The ninth playing of The Basketball Tournament will be its biggest yet, and there’s no bigger symbol of that growth than its smallest venue of the year.
TBT 2014, the first tournament, was a fraction of the size of TBT 2022 in every way. The field was half as big (just 32 teams), and they competed for half as much prize money ($500,000). The finals, played between Team Barstool and Notre Dame Fighting Alumni, were held at Boston University’s Case Gym, which currently holds 1,800 spectators.
In 2022, TBT will hold an outdoor regional for the first time at the legendary Rucker Park in Harlem, New York, arguably the greatest ground for streetball in the history of the sport. The Rucker Park regional will tip TBT 2022 off on July 16, as eight of the tournament’s 64 teams vie for a ticket to the quarterfinals at UD Arena in Dayton, housing over 13,000.
“As a New Yorker and being in Rucker Park and actually [having played] on Rucker Park, I’m excited to see that,” said Best Virginia forward Kevin Jones, a native of Mount Vernon.
If New York is the “Mecca of Basketball,” the Rucker is its Grand Mosque. For decades, the city’s greatest talents like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Julius Erving competed on its paved court honing their skills before moving on to the upper echelons of the professional game.
The court moved from local legend to the national spotlight in the 1990s with the introduction of AND1 Mixtapes from the Entertainer’s Basketball Classic, which were marketing videotapes by the shoe company showcasing the best streetballers of the time. In fact, “Skip To My Lou” Alston, the player who was the central focus of the first AND1 Mixtape before playing 13 years in the NBA, will coach his eponymous team in the region.
From the time of the AND1 tapes, the game’s biggest stars from Allen Iverson to Kobe Bryant to Kevin Durant have all stopped by Rucker Park in their primes to put on a show at the Entertainer’s Basketball Classic, which has been held since 1988.
Jones, of course, will compete with Best Virginia at the West Virginia Regional in Charleston. That’s how he prefers to compete as well, despite the history and grandeur of Rucker Park.
“The player in me, I don’t know if I necessarily would want to be playing outside for a million dollars,” Jones said. “There’s a lot of different variables that can happen with that, but I’m excited, man.”
The inclusions of Rucker Park and Charleston are testaments to TBT’s explosion over the last decade.
Even though the field has grown, the open-application nature of the event has become less and less open as more teams try to enter the field.
This year, Jones said there were over 100 teams that applied and didn’t make it.
“Just knowing that we were fortunate to not only be one of the teams that’s in but to have a bracket in West Virginia, that’s big-time,” “We definitely appreciated the fans that came out and showed super support. It felt like I was back in college again, man, I got goosebumps. I’m excited to play in front of our crowd again and see a big turnout.”
Best Virginia tips off its TBT run against Virginia Dream on July 24. Before that, the squad will compete in an exhibition game against WVU Tech on July 16.