Some History behind Venice Beach Tournaments

Ken Hicks, “The godfather of streetball”

Early in the summer of 1979 Kenn I. Hicks and his family moved to California from New York. Being associated with organized sports all is life, enlisted the support of his friends Bill Strayhorn and Mark Price in organizing a group called “the New Social Workers” which sponsored several local holiday basketball tournaments. Although the local tournaments were successful, Hicks possessed a strong desire to expand these tournaments into those comprised of teams from all over the United States. Having been exposed to the Harlem Rucker Summer Basketball League in New York City, Hicks was impressed with the enthusiasm generated by talented players competing from many different cities and states. The Outdoor format always raises the level of competition due to the spectators, and the player’s friends/family seeking excitement. Outdoor basketball is where legends are born and carried by word of mouth everywhere. Each time a story is told it gets more exciting and interesting. Hicks went to high school with the legend, Earl “The Goat” Manigault at Laurinburg Institute in North Carolina.

The New Social Workers cited Venice Beach as an ideal location for the tournament. Venice Beach offers the perfect setting for such an event since it draws a large cross section of spectators who enjoy watching exciting basketball and who won’t settle for less than 100% from the players. Thus the National Outdoor Basketball Championship was born at Venice Beach in the summer of 1981. Over the years the tournament grew in many ways. Teams from all over the country participated in five adult divisions and seven youth divisions, with over fifteen hundred participants. You would always find many NBA players competing for the outdoor crown and pre-college players in the youth division building a reputation. It was a family affair with contests and games for the entire family.

Music during halftime, rappers, singers, dancers, celebrities, bathing suit contest, and the radio stations broadcasting live from the beach, made the National Outdoor 5 on 5 Basketball Championship (Summer Basketball Showdown) the most popular and competitive tournament of its kind in the country. At this time I would like to thank my family and friends who helped me keep my dream alive for over twenty years. I would also like to thank the players, coaches, referees, and sponsors who enjoyed participating in my dream.

Ken started organized basketball tournaments/leagues at Venice Beach in 1981 and ended in 2002. He had teams come from as far as New York City, and many professional basketball players participated because his tournament was so competitive with thousands of people watching. Please join us Labor Day Sunday to honor the players and coaches who helped make Venice Beach a historical basketball landmark which is now famous throughout the world.

He was the first to create:

  • A 4,5,6, & 7 point shooting line in a basketball game
  • Announcer walking up and down the court calling the play by play of a game
  • Bathing Suit Contest (Crowning Ms Venice Beach) during half time
  • Outdoor Wheel Chair Basketball Game
  • To The Top Contest – Who can touch the top of the backboard
  • Theme: Have a Ball Without Drugs, Alcohol and Gang Violence