The city of Atlanta, GA is known as the “Hollywood of the South”. In the last few years, the entertainment scene has really taken off. This is due to so many movies and TV shows that are being filmed in the city. This has caused traffic to be even more outrageous. However, that is another article for another time. It has become common to see stars any and everywhere throughout the city. This summer was no different. There were two major “shows” that displayed some of the best in the basketball arena. Atlanta is home to the Wallace Prather Pro-Am (The Prather) and the Atlanta Entertainment Basketball League (AEBL) Hoops summer basketball leagues. Both leagues consist of current, former and aspiring NBA players, and local athletes. Since both leagues are NBA sanctioned, players’ contracts cannot be voided if they get hurt. It is very common to see players playing for both leagues during the week and weekend.
Wallace Prather Sr., former longtime AAU coach of the Atlanta Celtics, started The Prather. He wanted to provide young males and females with financial assistance thru scholarships. His son, Wallace Prather Jr., has done an outstanding job of continuing his father’s legacy. In this league he plays with the team known as the *drum roll*…Atlanta Celtics. The semifinal game was played Tuesday, August 15th. As I was standing there watching the game and taking pictures, I noticed a player begin to stretch on the floor next to me. At a quick glance, it looked like Kyrie Irving. I didn’t think it was him because he was cleaned shaven. Then about 50 people, which were outside the Grant Park Recreation gym, came in. I looked at the player again, and it was definitely Kyrie. He played a good game and showed why he is one of the best scorers in the league. The championship game was Thursday, August 17th. It featured the fan favorites, Celtics, verse the Black Monopoly team. The Celtics had former NBA player Jerry Stackhouse and current NBA player, Eric Bledsoe of the Phoenix Suns. You would think that that would be more than enough to bring home a fourth straight championship. Guess again. MVP winner Dakari Johnson, from the Oklahoma City Thunder, led Black Monopoly to an 83-73 victory. The young seven-foot center showed why he was dominant in the NBA D-league and ready to make the next step up. He is a true big man that plays with his back to the basket. He also can face up and pass well. It was so crowded that you couldn’t get in unless someone else came out. Congratulations to the Prather’s on a great “show” this summer!
Rucker Park in New York City is known as the hallowed ground of basketball. Many basketball greats past and present have played in the summer league games there, known as the Entertainment Basketball Classics. Five years ago, Jah Rawlings’ vision of having that Rucker atmosphere in Atlanta took shape. It started on the asphalt courts at Central Park in Atlanta. It has now moved inside to gyms such as Grady High and Kipp Atlanta. Thankfully, they had, because this year’s championship game was packed. It was wall to wall just like The Prather. Uptown Sounds, led by Lou Williams, was going for their third title in five years. The Skill Factory was going for back-to-back titles. Oh and by the way, they were undefeated on the season. Uptown Sounds would have Kyrie and his then Cleveland Cavaliers teammate, Iman Shumpert. They would also have Montrezl Harrell who was playing with his teammate Williams. Former Atlanta Hawks and current Washington Wizard, Mike Scott, led The Skill Factory (TSF). Since TSF was undefeated, Coach of the Year, Rob Johnson, had all the pressure on him and his team. It is no way they could pull a Golden State Warriors, was it? Was it possible to have a record setting season only to come away without the chip? From the early goings, it didn’t seem like it was going to be close. Kyrie had 17 points to TSF’s six. He had 35 points after three quarters. However, TSF showed they were a true team that was undefeated for a reason. They get chipping away at a 20-point lead. In the final minutes, they made clutch shots to tie the game and send it into overtime. In overtime, it was nip and tuck. With seven seconds on the clock and down by two, TSF had a chance to win it or send it into another overtime. They never got a shot off and Uptown Sounds won 104-102. Kyrie was named MVP. Congratulations to the AEBL on a great “show” this summer!
The Prather and the AEBL have provided the summer with an exciting “show” until basketball season starts. Their Tuesday, Saturday, and Sunday schedules have provided b-ball fans of all ages an opportunity to watch FREE games. If you are from Atlanta and haven’t been to a game you are missing out. No need to worry though, there is always next year. If you live out of town, make a trip down to the “Hollywood of the South”. You never know who you might see on display.