With the NBA lockout in full swing, the labor dispute has prevented the annual Summer League from happening that help rookies acclimate themselves with the play of the NBA and helping younger players get better.
This is why Richmond, Va.’s Tri-Cities Summer League plays a crucial role in 2011.
The Tri-Cities Summer League is a month-long venture where basketball players, from college-bound to professionals can come together and compete. And more importantly it gives them a chance to work out and prepare themselves for an NBA season that may or may not happen.
Games for the Tri-Cities Summer League are played at Big Ben’s Court, a small gym built by Detroit Pistons Ben Wallace who played collegiately at Virginia Union University, a Historical Black College and University in Richmond.
“Ben’s gym is a legit floor,” said K.C. Rivers. “It’s an NBA size floor so not only college guys but pro guys can workout and stay consistent with their games.”This year’s championship game was played Thursday with former Tar Heel teammates Ty Lawson and Ed Davis reuniting once again, along with Orlando Magic draftee Justin Harper and Los Angeles Lakers Devin Ebanks. Their opponent was the team led by Golden State Warrior Reggie Williams.
Davis, Harper and Williams all have ties to Richmond.
Despite the NBA talent, the game belonged to Rivers, a former Clemson Tiger, who scored 48 points in helping Team Williams win the title 141-134 in overtime.
Rivers did not get picked up by an NBA team, forcing him to play overseas but he wanted to make a statement.
“You have some NBA guys and you have guys who play overseas who one day want to be in the NBA, so I just wanted to show some of these guys that I belong,” Rivers said.
The real winners however were the fans. The Richmond community who came out to watch NBA players up close and personal.
“It’s a nice gym, it was packed and the crowd was crazy and loud. I love this type of environment,” said Lawson who participated in the league for the first time this summer.
“I love this type of league.”
Williams and Davis second and third that notion.
“I think it was important for the city and the game of basketball,” Williams said.
Davis added, “This tournament is a great avenue to give back to the community; it allows us to bring players in that the community may not get a chance to see in person.”
NBA Cares is the initiative that address important social issues such as education, youth and family development. The Tri-Cities Summer League and its players exemplify those aspects to a fault.
And there are few things much more beautiful.