On April 30, NBA Hall of Famer Tracy McGrady launched the Ones Basketball League (OBL), a one-on-one basketball league for players who are not affiliated with an NBA contract. The league lasts for six weeks; each week the OBL goes to a different city and invites elite players from the region to compete in their tournament-style format. The OBL held tournaments in Houston, Atlanta, Chicago, New York, and the DMV.
The winners of the regional tournaments win $10,000 and the top three players will qualify for a tournament that will take place in Las Vegas. The winner of the Vegas Tournament will win $250,000.
The OBL stopped in Los Angeles this weekend at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion and 32 players competed for the grand prize. George Beamon of New York became the winner of the tournament; he, along with Marcus Hall of Colorado and Randy Gill of Los Angeles will compete in the Las Vegas tournament.
McGrady created this league to “provide opportunities for guys that love the game of basketball.”
“[They] probably been told that they’re not good enough to play somewhere, doors shut on them, still have a great passion for the game, still can play at a high level,” McGrady said. “I’m just providing that opportunity for them, giving them a platform to showcase their skill.”
The OBL starts each week with the 32 players randomly set up to compete against each other, all of them playing seven games. The games either end when a player has the higher score after 10 regulated minutes or if a player scores seven points. Field goals are worth one point and shots from deep are worth two.
Inglewood alum Julius Bilbrew mentioned how the format is good for players at any position.
“They have the three-second rule to where you can’t post up for more than three seconds, you have a 12-second shot clock,” Bilbrew said. “The 12-second shot clock is more for like guards and the three-second rule is more for bigs, so it balances out.”
Bilbrew also played for Fresno State University, Fresno City College, and Antelope Valley College. His son and family were there to support him as he competed on Saturday.
Queens, New York native Willie Britton was a stand-out on the Purchase College men’s basketball team. He moved to Los Angeles after he graduated and has been recently competing in the Drew League. Britton aspires to get a pro contract.
“In college, I had to work my way up to be the best player on my team, which I was. Now after that, anything that I go into, there’s a bunch of other best players on their team,” Britton said. “So now you start back at the bottom of the totem pole, you got to work your way up, build yourself a name so that people can respect you more.”
Los Angeles native Dejwan Walker used his speed to outstep bigger and more physical players.
“You’re gonna have to battle through some injuries and stuff playing out here,” he said. “I’m from L.A. … I’m going to say that we’re the best, the best city out of all of them so I think we got the best competition.”
Former Chico State player Isaiah Pfitzer wanted to utilize his opportunity. He noted how he was familiar with one-on-one play, but it has its challenges.
“I would say I’ve been doing it for a long time, so I’m used to the one-on-one kind of environment, trash-talking and all that,” Pfitzer said. “The cons: stamina, endurance. Seven games, gotta be able to play all day, You got to be able to come back and play the next day.”
The OBL match-ups pitted front-court players against back-court players. Antonio Goodwin had to find ways to remain competitive despite the size difference between him and his opponents.
“I learned how to deal with bigger bodies because my first two games, I’ve dealt with people that had more weight on them than me,” Goodwin said.
Naudgee Carpenter moved to Los Angeles from Chicago after spending a stint of time being a caretaker to his grandmother. She encouraged him to pursue basketball.
“She was like “I want you to be famous in hoops,” so I said “Grandma, I’m gonna be famous in hoops for you,”” Carpenter said. “It’s a great experience, I love that [McGrady] is doing this for us.”
Los Angeles is the final stop before the Las Vegas tournament that will take place next month. For more information, visit oblhoops.com.