By Bryan Revello and Tom Rottkamp
Hoops fans and those longing for a taste of the NBA during the off-season will have something new to look forward to this summer as the Champions League will make its anticipated debut in July. This brand new 16-team league will feature players that have recently starred in the NBA and will provide basketball entertainment in a more fan-friendly and intimate environment including photo opportunities with the players before and after games. To make things sound even more fun, legendary musician Snoop Dogg was named as the league’s Celebrity Commissioner this past week.
The NYC region will be represented by the Gotham Ballers, who will play their home games at the newly renovated Nassau Coliseum in Long Island. The team is especially intriguing because they had opened up team ownership to the general public through the website StartEngine.com. Throughout the early portion of 2017, fans and other interested parties were able to purchase stock in the team with additional benefits, giving anybody the opportunity to own stake in a professional team. At the closing of their campaign, they had accumulated 1,682 investors for a total of $610,393.00 raised. The team will kick off in July and the schedule will be released shortly.
The Ballers management and players will look very familiar to hardcore NBA fans. The front office is made up of very recognizable names such as Walt “Clyde” Frazier as President, Earl “The Pearl” Monroe as General Manager and John Wallace as Head Coach.
The team roster is a bevy of former NBA talent including a few former New York Knicks. Check it out below.
Jamaal Tinsley, aka “Mel Mel The Abuser” from his NY playground days, used to start for the Pacers. His passing skills are amazing and he’s incredibly fun to watch.
Tyshawn Taylor played for the Nets and top spots around the globe and has many years of serious basketball left to play.
Daniel “Boobie” Gibson spent years on the court with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Off the court he gets wins in the music studio.
Kareem Rush got buckets for multiple NBA squads, and is ready to bring it for Champions – and we have an off court surprise from Kareem that will be music to your ears.
Chris Smith is an underdog, and he knows it. The brother of famed NBA shooting guard J.R. Smith, Chris brings heart and determination as he looks to rise up and make his mark in the Champions Basketball League.
Al Harrington jumped straight from high school to the NBA and never looked back. He’s a leader and winner, on and off the court.
Shawn Marion, aka the Matrix, is one of the most versatile basketball talents in modern history.
Kenyon Martin’s cutting without the ball catching passes from Jason Kidd for dunks in the NBA was legendary. His job on this roster will include rebounding and playing big.
Renaldo Balkman, from NYC, spent years in the NBA and has done big things overseas and on the national squad for Team Puerto Rico.
Anthony Mason Jr., a proud son of late, great former Knicks and NBA star Anthony Mason, brings D-League and overseas experience. He’s also a champion off the court, doing admirable work helping youths better their lives.
No conventional centers on a roster can be a very good thing. It often means more mobility, and quicker, more versatile play.
Serious talent. Incredible experience. The Gotham Ballers are a SQUAD!
Our Basketball Editor, Tom Rottkamp, was able to catch up with Gotham Ballers Head Coach and Former Syracuse & Knicks star John Wallace for an exclusive interview.
TR: John, as a New York guy, having played high school basketball in Rochester before heading to your brilliant career at Syracuse University, how does it feel to be back in New York as a first time coach?
JW: I love it! You know, Tom, to this day, I have Syracuse fans approach me with their appreciation of that Final Four season in 1996.
TR: Yes, as I recall, a 29-9 record for the Orange with an impressive Elite-8 victory over a Kansas team featuring Raef LaFrentz, Jacques Vaughn, and Paul Pierce! What happened in the Final , a 76-67 loss to the Kentucky Wildcats, coached by Rick Pitino?
JW: [laughter] Hey, Tom, we were down only 2 late in the game. It was a great game! And, remember, they had four NBA players on that squad. Derek Anderson, Antoine Walker, Tony Delk and Ron Mercer.
TR: What can you tell us about Syracuse coach, Jim Boeheim?
JW: Coach Boeheim is the most influential mentor in my life. He taught me how to be a professional. As tough as it is to make it to the NBA, for most players, it’s tougher to stay…and even more challenging to get back. I did all three. And, my dedicated approach to my craft and to community service was the foundation set by the staff at Syracuse.
TR: Your charitable outreach benefits children?
JW: Yes, the Heavenly Productions Foundation provides services for needy families, and military families here and abroad.
TR: That’s great. Why have you turned your attention to coaching now John?
JW: I’ve always been blessed by the support of Syracuse fans and NBA fans. When the Gotham organization contacted me and described their mission, I immediately wanted to be a part of that. This will be a fan friendly league with access to players that many people have never had before. As a coach, I can’t wait to work with these guys. They are all consummate professionals who have had success in the NBA. They all appreciate the opportunity this new league is providing for them to give back. It will be a lot of fun for everyone!
TR: Coach, what about the quality of play?
JW: These guys are in great shape! There is that chance that they could showcase their team oriented value with us and get another shot at an NBA spot.
TR: So, like an NBA team, you’ve assembled a staff with 7 or 8 assistants?
JW: [laughter] Not exactly Tom. It’s me, I am the staff. We are keeping the costs down. These games will be affordable for all families.
TR: The Long Island community loved Dr. J and the NETS. I’m sure they will love your team as well Coach Wallace.
JW: Thanks Tom. See you at the New Coliseum!
The Gotham Ballers are one of sixteen teams throughout the United States that will feature a team in the Champions League. The rest of the league shapes out like this.