VBL in Sports Illustrated China

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Although Hollywood is not far from here, don’t think the Los Angeles Basketball is all about entertainment. Entertainment is important, however, basketball is more important.



Nick Ansom, born in France, has been running for the Venice Beach League in his young age. Today, He is our guide in the trip of southern California basketball.


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I’ve never dreamed that there will be such a place in the world.

Deep pacific, costal free way, green lawn, soaring seabirds, and US-South Korea Friendship Bell showed up in front of my eyes when I got off the car. What surprised me is that there is a basketball court among this beautiful scenery. Yes, it is San Pedro Basketball Court.

Human sensory stimulation caused by elegant environment has surpassed basketball itself if you play basketball here. But it must be noted that: firstly, please pay attention to wind when you are shooting; secondly, do not be too violent, or you had to go to picking up the ball in the sea.

Nick Ansom, current CEO of VBL, leaded us to eight courts in Los Angeles and Southern California within one day. Among the beach, the community, the roof, and even the nation’s largest homeless settlements, we could find traces of the basketball court. This is a trip full of discovery and surprise. Los Angeles was filled with these venues in my mind.



Beckham had outstanding performance on the pitch, but he never tried to seek a reputation off the court. Although he has passed the peak of his career, he is still showing his own influence to the world. The crowd outside H&M store in year 2012 was an evident.




Venice beach is a paradise for exercise, including running, fitness, swimming, surfing, skateboarding, bicycling, parasail. But on every Sunday, this paradise belongs to basketball.




Beach Memories:

Ken Hicks, the founder of VBL, told us the how the league starts.

“I came to California from New York in 1979. However, I found that there was no Rucker Park and few people playing street ball. I felt so great to play basketball in the beach when I found this place.

There is a huge district difference between New York and other states. I want people to play basketball with comfort and without district difference. Beside, this beach is a fantastic place for basketball players. Children and people from all over the world will come to see how is everything going with the basketball.

In 1981, I met the manager responsible for Venice Beach, and asked if he could do a basketball league. It was lucky that he agreed because he was also a basketball lover. We didn’t go through a lot of process and began to run the league. At first, we only had adult league, but we added youth league afterwards. Subsequently, we split off more than 35 categories, and further more, we added dunk contest in the top game. Finally, after many years, VBL became famous.



Venice Beach is a holy place. If you go to California, you must take a look at Venice Beach. But the way, you also should go to Hollywood, take a look at Kodak Theatre (now renamed the Dolby Theatre) in downtown area, as well as USC (University of Southern California). These are the places you must visit. In addition to Venice Beach, Santa Monica Beach is another seaside shrine. You should know that the weather here makes Los Angeles different. If Los Angeles doesn’t have this perfect weather, I don’t think it will be this famous and great nowadays.

Basically, the weather of LA should be like this, 300 days of a year are sunny even too bright. So don’t take a stroll along the seaside without doing any protection from the sun, or sunburn is inevitable. The negative mood such as competition, conflict will disappear in this place. Relaxing on the beach is the most important thing.

However, should we take basketball as an important thing?(Continue page6 text…)




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What I told in the beginning of the article is from Moris Griffen, also known as Big Money. He is one of the legendary players in VBL. “You can play weightlifting, water bicycling, surfing and gymnastics,” He told us, ”you can also ride a bike from one beach to another with your backpack. You can even just take a stroll. Walking is also an exercise, and you will feel good about it. Basketball is not the only choice here as there are all kinds of exercise.”

We came to the Venice Beach in the early evening, I found that four basketball courts is surrounded by tall coconut trees, there are people shooting under each basket. VBL rubber main court is located on unique position. Near the court there are fancy graffiti, audience seating, T-shit stores, Tattoo stores, bicycle rentals, etc. It is incredible that stadium seems so harmonious in midst of crowded tourist area.

Arranging basketball league in such a place is both simple and complex: the simple thing is that people won’t feel any unusual about whatever you do here, no matter how far you shoot the ball, even you shoot 6 points or 7 points. The complex thing is how to make basketball more attractive. “You should enjoy the entertainment with your family when you come to the Venice Beach”, Ken Hicks, the founder of VBL told us, “This is what we want to achieve. What’s more, we want to put our basketball league as a family activity. The Venice Beach is different from Locker Park in New York. Audiences in Locker Park are basically local, but we have visitors from around the world in LA, I want all tourists will be into hoops.”




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Enjoy what basketball can bring requires a considerable number of organizers and participants with spirit of entertainment. Luckily, VBL contains so much fun. From 9 am to 7 pm in every Sunday, you can see people’s desire to show off from children’s basketball camp to professional group game in every stage, every corner of the court. “No, no, I would not foul under normal circumstances,” referee Mike Dent who has cooperated with VBL for 7 years told us, “no foul shot, no three seconds, players can play in their own ways. People here want to have fun and see more basketball skills. Therefore, sometimes players will put the ball in the clothes, jumped up and deal with opponents.” Dent is a kind of referee who would laugh out loudly during the game, who would dance with the background music, who would make audience laughing using exaggerating gesture.

Difference also exists in music. In other places, especially in New York, you can only hear the rap, dance music, or those stirring. But in VBL, you do not know when it will play “When I fall in love… “. “The approach in doing music is completely different, I don’t mean that we are doing better than DJ in New York,” live DJ told us, “There are various styles of movies, music in LA, we should not confine the music style no matter on court or off court. ”

Excellent entertainment doesn’t mean inferior level of competition. On the contrary, in order to show their capabilities in front of tourists all over the world, they will play extremely hard.

Among players, Jahmani Swanjon, whose nickname is “Mani Love”, is the most noticeable one. He is the shortest player in street ball history. But he dropped into two three-pointers and completed a driving layup among the big men in five minutes. When he came to rest, audience all cheered for this short guy.

“Playing basketball is a challenge for me. I love basketball and I love what basketball can bring me,” Swanjon said, “I want to prove I can achieve a lot on the court. In addition, I get respect through good performance, which is very important to me.”

“Basketball is an universal game, I want to give everyone an opportunity,” current VBL’s CEO Nick told us, “We have created an opportunity for everyone to participate in the competitions, to show themselves. I always want to extend the activity to outside the beach, to different social networks, so as to let people apart from basketball lovers to look at the street balls. People will see the entertainment stars, football stars, we want everyone to gather in the same one venue, everyone is willing to pay.”

After all this, along with the sunset VBL has finally come to an end. Staff started to clean the court. “We all have passion for the league, so that VBL continues today. VBL doesn’t have much money, but thanks to Los Angeles, we have achieved so much progress.”


Text (Right) – How does Nick Ansom estimate his league?


Q: How do you feel after 7 years’ management experience with VBL?

A: Our league has a slogan: Basketball’s paradise. I came here when I was 12 years old, I cannot speak English. “Who is the next?” this is the first English sentence I learned. Basketball has been our common language. The spirit here touched me. I was surprised that people here were very warm-hearted. You could not tell what was happen here. This was a show that owned a colorful history.


Q: What attract people to play basketball here?

A: Over 300 days of one year, it is sunny in Venice Beach. I told people, playing basketball outside would be more interesting than playing in the gym. I have tried to persuade them, ‘come on, let’s play together, you can give up if you don’t like playing here. ‘ However, they came and they would always exclaimed, ’awesome’!


Q: What is your expectation about the league?

A: I want the players attending the competition are truly attracted by Venice Beach. We are close to the tropical Pacific Ocean and our rewards are few. People here are playing just for fun. Many players are not professional, no career. They are lawyers, actors, or other different occupations. They have to go back to work on Monday. But on Sunday, they belong to joy and entertainment.


Q: Yes, this is the West Coast basketball. We all know that here is the entertainment center…

A: Yes, Los Angeles is the entertainment capital of the world. But look at VBL, our approach is different, for example, you may never seen in other leagues in hot pink shirts, but we are willing to do something to convey the authentic spirit of entertainment. We do not throw, the outcome may not be important here. I have traveled to many places, but I could not leave here, and here is amazing.