Last summer, inside the quarantine bubble set up for a basketball tournament, all the players stayed in the same hotel in Columbus, Ohio, site of the The Basketball Tournament, the popular win-mostly-takes-all summer hoop fest.
“We had restrictions,” said Ramone Moore, the former Temple star who is a mainstay for Team Brotherly Love in the TBT. “We couldn’t leave the hotel. The most we could do was sit in the hallway and talk to each other.”
Moore, an overseas professional veteran, would talk to Novar Gadson, who played at Bartram and Rider and now plays overseas professionally.
“We need something back in the city, as far as summer basketball,” Moore said of those conversations.
“It started from Instagram rants,” Gadson said of those talks. “Guys from the city saying, we really don’t have a place to play in the summer. Guys don’t come out to play pickup, don’t see each other.”
They noted several exceptions, starting with the annual Danny Rumph Classic.
“The Rumph Classic is the greatest thing hands-down in Philadelphia,” Gadson said. “But it’s only a four-day tournament.”
Their own idea goes longer, and starts Monday. The Brotherly Love Pro-Am. … Think of the old Baker League meets TBT meets the popular Delco League at Haverford College meets the Rumph Classic.
» READ MORE: Remembering Danny Rumph, a 2009 story
The original plan was for the games to be played at a gym in the city, but pandemic restrictions knocked that out during the planning stages, so the games are at the Kroc Community Center on Harrison Avenue in Camden. (Doors open, 6:30 p.m., $10 admission, $5 for children.)
“I’m driving to the venue right now, I want to see it in person,” Gadson said over the phone Thursday. He was just back from playing professionally in Japan. “It’s going to be insane. The players who have committed -- this idea, it’s coming to light.”
While Gadson and Moore, who know everyone in local hoops between the two of them, had gotten the ball rolling, they have two more co-founders, Stefan Thompson and Brett Oslon, who have done a ton of the heavy lifting.
‘It’s basically NBA guys and overseas guys,” said Moore about the playing lineup. (Moore didn’t mention until halfway through a phone conversation that he was speaking from Romania, still there to play in the championship round of the professional league. The phone connection was as clear as if he was on Broad Street.)
Monday’s marquee game features Team Chester, which by itself has everyone involved in the league excited.
“That basketball community is like none other,” Moore said. “We know they’ll bring out every game.”
Tyreke Evans and Rondae Hollis Jefferson are both on the Team Chester roster.
“They’re playing,” Gadson said. “I talked to both of them.”
The opposing team has New York guys, led by Lance Stephenson. (“He’s definitely playing,” Gadson said. ) The rest of the teams are a who’s who of the whole Philly hoop scene, From Team F.8.E., sponsored by the Morris twins, to Team Camden Monarchs, to Team Lewis Leonard, Team Blue Magic, Team Chuck Ellis, Team Born Leader Family, Team Hank Gathers.
“We’re bringing quality to the city,” Gadson said.
No guarantees on who shows up on a given night, games every Monday and Thursday for six weeks, intentionally finishing it before the Rumph Classic and the TBT. Rosters are open, although if you play for one team, you can’t play for another. But the idea is to give the coaches ten uniforms, then it’s up to them who is in the jerseys for a given game. That’s the beauty of the Rumph Classic. Maybe the twins get on the court after their NBA season is over. (Marcus Morris is still playing for the L.A. Clippers right now.) Maybe James Harden would show up once to play, which became a legendary night at Tom Gola Arena.
In this case, who knows, maybe Kyle Lowry gets there to play for a night. But the mainstay names are familiar, with Team Kyle Hines featuring a TBT group led by the South Jersey-raised Euro legend.
“We have a live stream company, trying to get guys an opportunity to get game film, to show they’re in shape,” Moore said.
“This city has had some crazy Pro-Ams over the years,” Gadson said, remembering hearing of games indoors and outside featuring Rasheed Wallace, Eddie Griffin and others. “We’re trying to bring that back. It’s coming to life.”
A simple conversation in an Ohio hotel hallway between two Philly hoop pillars … coming to life.