Friends and fam, the 2017 season of Venice Basketball League (“VBL”) is officially underway! This past Sunday marked the first games of the new year, and it was a special occasion for every longtime fan of the league. The day kicked off at 9 AM with the Kids Venice Basketball League (“KVBL”) camp otherwise known as #ChurchofHoops, VBL’s non-profit initiative focused on engaging LA’s youth in physical activity, healthy eating, and community involvement. This week’s emphasis was “The Art of Shooting.” Several coaches came to help with the camp including [Paul Davis, Chris Staples, Josh Gouch], and basketball legend Sik Wit It.
At noon, VBL’s “Build Courts Not Walls” campaign to revitalize Venice Beach’s famed outdoor courts kicked off with a ribbon-cutting to inaugurate the newly resurfaced court. VBL hoopers of all ages, along with friends, fans, and family who have been a part of our incredible 11-year journey, attended the ceremony.
Also present for the inauguration ceremony was Victor Jauregui, LA Parks and Rec Senior Recreation Director in charge of the Venice Beach area, who said afterward, “I’m very proud to be associated with VBL. [The new court] is beautiful.”
Despite the June gloom, VBL’s first games on the newly rejuvenated court were packed with a crowd composed of local fans and tourists of all ages. The crowd enjoyed a nice day at the beach, great food options & second to none entertainment featuring high-flying dunks, serious star power, and some good beach basketball, all that in a family friendly atmosphere. Can’t wait to see what next week has in store!
Without further due, here is a recap of the afternoon!
The Season Starts in Style
Immediately after the ceremony, hoop-time was at hand!
Game 1 featured Pro Shot West versus our only international squad, the China Elite All-Stars, who are playing their first year in the league. They got a warm welcome from baller J2 Nice, who opened the game by throwing down a nasty alley-hoop from teammate “Know What Amin”, scoring the first points of the 2017 VBL season.
“It’s always good to start off with a nice little bang,” Mr. Nice said of his opening bucket.
And bang they did – that basket led to an early run, which didn’t end til the closing minute of the first quarter. China Elite bigman Rod Benson got a little vengeance with the team’s first bucket, slamming home a thunderous and-1 2-handed jam. The receiving end of his destruction was Pro Shot’s Bube, who had to leave the game per league rules. You get dunked on, you sit down for 2 minutes!
Though they put together a few runs, even dropping the lead 7 points with 3 minutes in the game, China Elite didn’t have enough to get it done, and Pro Shot cruised to a nice win.
As China Elite coach Will Alexander told his squad after the game, “Now we know what to expect.” Better step it up next week, boys!
Poster Boy Puts on a Show
Perhaps the most spectacular performance of the day came in game 2, which pitted Los Fearless against Most Hated Players (“MHP”).
First to set the scene: MHP’s Staples started hot, wetting two threes, hammering home an off-the-backboard alley-hoop, defying gravity with a destructive dunk, all in the first quarter. That performance launched MHP to an 11-point halftime lead – but a quick 8 points by Los Fearless’s Motherland to start the second half brought his team back into the game. MHP held a slim 5-point lead going into the fourth.
That’s when Los Fearless’s Poster Boy took over, scoring 13 straight to tie up the game midway through quarter four. But he wasn’t done. With 2 minutes on the clock, Poster Boy hit a three to take Los Fearless’s first lead of the game, followed by a steal and dunk to put his squad up 5. A boneheaded, last-minute turnover by Los Fearless kept MHP them in the game, but they sealed the W when MHP’s Chi Town missed an open look to tie in the final seconds.
After the game, Poster Boy – who finished with 25 points, 3 rebounds, and 4 assists – told me he needed to channel that “Mamba Mentality” carry his team.
“[VBL legend] Sik Wit It gave me that look at half, like ‘you’re not playing well’,” Poster Boy said, which was the spark that lit his fire and carried his team to victory.
Metta World Peace Seeks VBL Glory
Next on the docket was NBA-champion Metta World Peace’s team, The Panda’s Friend, against the skin-safe squad Sunblock. Despite championship caliber on The Panda’s Friend squad, including Metta and aforementioned VBL legend Sik Wit It, Sunblock took a six-point lead into half.
“We got back in it so I’m proud of my guys,” Metta said of his team’s first half performance. But pride wasn’t enough for a win, as Sunblock maintained the lead throughout the second half and ended with a comfortable 11-point victory, 55-43.
Closing out the day, Venice’s eminent emcee Mouth Piece’s squad Hub Select took out Hall of Fame 67-62, including 7 points from the 2017 VBL number one draft pick, Alan P. Then the day ended with the Nova Stars, defending champs with a new team name, waxing The Venetians to ink they first win by a double digit point differential.
Full gallery here