The website advertises it as “36 years long, 36 years strong.”
Strong is the key word in describing the Black Invitational Basketball Tournament. After three- and-a-half decades, the Provincial Black Basketball Association has carved a niche for itself, unique to any sporting event in North America.
This year, teams will come from as far away as Boston, Ottawa and Calgary. Players come from as far as New Orleans and Hawaii: all this in what is supposedly a down-year---25 teams taking part is slightly below a 32-team average.
“We don’t take backseat to Canadian interuniversity sport or anybody,” says association vice president Clayton Gannon. “We’re one of the longest tournaments running in this city. I’d say our attendance outnumbers the Rainmen.”
The all-black tournament, which runs through this week and has its finals on Sunday at Saint Mary’s University, has three divisions: The A Division is “the cream of the crop”---pros; semi-pros; collegiate; players from ABA or European leagues.
The B division is more recreational, but still competitive with many former university players taking part. The C Division is for players over the age of 35. While the big draw is expected to be the high level of competition, among the 10 teams in the A Division, the tournament is also a home-coming for many players who mark this event on their calendar each year.
After 36 years, the tournament isn’t slowing down.
“It’s going to keep happening next year, and it’s going to be bigger. These players go back and spread the word. Every year there seem to be new faces coming,” says Gannon. “The word is out there.”
For a schedule of tournament games, taking place at various locations across town, check out blackbasketball.ca.