Last Wednesday something “Magic”-al (pun intended lol) happened in Vegas. The top Nike grassroots program in the nation played the top Adidas grassroots program in the nation. The result: 3 stripes was better than 1 check. It was great for youth basketball to see these two giants collide. It should happen more often. It needs to happen more often. I have some theories as to why it doesn’t……………..
First things first, Nike has had a stranglehold on grassroots hoops since the beginning of time and still is in the driver’s seat today. That firm grip is loosening up a bit in recent times though. Both Adidas and Under Armour have established summer youth basketball circuits that garner national attention. Each of these shoe companies host their own summer circuit culminating with each naming their own champion. But the best Nike team is usually named the de facto “#1 team in the country.” Why you ask? One word: reputation. What if that reputation and aura of dominance and invincibility was somehow damaged? What would happen to said reputation? I call it the Roy Jones, Jr. effect. Let me explain. Roy Jones used to toy with his opponents in the ring. Was completely dominant in every way and seemed unbeatable. All that changed with one punch. Antonio Tarver knocked him senseless. Once people saw he was vulnerable, dudes named Glenn Johnson started stepping up with confidence and did the same thing. Maybe Nike is somewhat fearful of this happening. If they let their Roy Jones (Team Takeover) start fighting Antonio Tarver more often that left hook might land one day and all this comes crashing down.
This is a direct result of business getting in the way of basketball. We have two powerhouses from separate shoe companies right here in the DC area (Team Takeover – Nike, DC Premier – UA) yet they rarely compete against each other. If Nike were to open up the floodgates and accept all challengers, some chinks in the armor might get exposed. That Nike name carries a lot of weight because of their dominance and superiority. That translates into being able to attract the best talent for their youth teams, which in turn helps Nike schools get the best players, who then turn into pros who sign Nike endorsement deals. There’s an agenda and those decision makers over there aren’t deviating from that. It’s smart but it doesn’t really speak to the spirit of fierce competition. There is no reason for the teams to be segregated. Find a way to mix all these teams in and let them go at it. Some may want that more than others though.
There is a reason I’m placing a bulk of the blame squarely at Nike’s feet. The main reason being that the teams from the other shoe companies would love the opportunity and exposure they would garner from competing against the Nike teams on a regular basis. It’s a shame that this doesn’t get to happen because I’m sure that the players and coaches want to compete. They shouldn’t be robbed of that opportunity. The funniest part about all of this is the Nike teams would probably end up coming out on top anyway. It’s not like their teams aren’t extremely talented. They should have the chance to test their mettle against every top tier team in the nation, not just those that play on the Nike circuit. I have no way of knowing if Nike is standing in the way of this happening but it seems like to me that they are the only ones who have anything to lose from tearing down the circuit walls and letting these teams have the ultimate youth hoops battle royale. If money is the motivation, I can imagine a lot more can be made this way. The game last Wednesday was packed with plenty more folks waiting to get in. If everyone tournament was like this that would mean bigger venues, more spectators, more money spent at concession, higher ticket prices. I’m not in favor of the money grab by any means but I’m just saying, if that’s the reasoning then it doesn’t make much sense not to do this.
What happened between the Compton Magic and Team Takeover last week was beautiful. We truly got to see a clash fo the titans. It needs to happen more often. Everyone wants to see it. Everyone needs to see it. The people who can make it happen need to get to it. The Adidas Gauntlet series is aptly named “Uprising”. With the recent triumph of their top dog over Nike’s, that name might be more prophetic than anything.