If you’re a basketball fan in Los Angeles, you’ve probably heard the nicknames “Black Mamba” and “CP3” in reference to Lakers star Kobe Bryant and Clippers point guard Chris Paul, respectively.
But what about Larry “The Bone Collector” Williams or Grayson “The Professor” Boucher?
Those players are part of a growing phenomenon known as streetball, a flashier version of basketball intended to replicate the style of play seen on urban playgrounds such as Harlem’s famed Rucker Park.
“Athleticism is showcased a little bit more,” said Demetrius Spencer, a 37-year-old former executive at Universal Music Group, who created Ball Up, billed as the world’s largest professional streetball tour to capitalize on the craze.
While Ball Up rules are similar to those of pro hoops, zone defense is not allowed in the offense-minded five-on-five games, and players are encouraged to drive to the hoop as often as they can and wow spectators with high-flying plays, said Spencer, Ball Up’s chief executive.
The first official Ball Up game took place at Cal State Northridge in 2010, and it has grown into an annual summer tour that plays small arenas in 10 U.S. cities, including Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Las Vegas. The tour has also played about 50 games overseas.
Before the first ball was even tipped, Spencer secured a 10-episode broadcasting deal with Fox Sports. He executive-produces the show through his production company in Studio City, One Media Worldwide.
“They really took a gamble with us and it has paid off,” Spencer said.
The show follows the tryouts held in each city to select a 10-person team, coached by a National Basketball Association player, that will face off against a traveling Ball Up all-star team.
The Ball Up series also airs in 40 international territories, and Spencer said he’s in the process of licensing the format to companies overseas to develop local shows. He has secured 27 licensing deals for a product and apparel line set to launch later this year, a revenue stream Spencer said could soon rival the broadcasting money.
“My intent for it is to surpass it,” he said.
– Omar Shamout
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