Sports

TBT to hold regional at NYC’s famed Rucker Park

The Basketball Tournament will play one of its eight regionals at historic Rucker Park in New York City, the first time the annual event will hold games outdoors.

The TBT announced Thursday that Rucker Park will host games from July 16-20, with the winner moving on to the quarterfinals at the University of Dayton on July 29-30.

“Rucker Park has always been a dream of ours,” TBT founder and CEO Jon Mugar told ESPN. “TBT is an open tournament format, and we want it to be a celebration of all things basketball. People assemble from the pros, from college, from the YMCA. And Rucker Park, to me, has always been the pinnacle of a melting pot for basketball. Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson playing there against guys you’ve never heard of before. That openness epitomizes TBT.”

Mugar said the idea first came about after last summer’s event, when the organizers were looking for unique places to host games. They had never played outdoors before — they came close during 2020’s bubble environment, when the idea of putting a court in the middle of Ohio Stadium was heavily discussed — and Rucker Park seemed like the perfect location to pursue.

“Rucker Park has always been a dream of ours. TBT is an open tournament format, and we want it to be a celebration of all things basketball. People assemble from the pros, from college, from the YMCA. And Rucker Park, to me, has always been the pinnacle of a melting pot for basketball. Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson playing there against guys you’ve never heard of before. That openness epitomizes TBT.”

TBT founder and CEO Jon Mugar

The first group that organizers contacted to gauge interest was the National Basketball Players Association, which had partnered with NYC Parks to renovate Greg Marius Court at Rucker Park.

“We are very excited for this partnership and to support The Basketball Tournament coming to the newly renovated Greg Marius Court at Holcombe Rucker Park,” NBPA president and New Orleans Pelicans guard CJ McCollum said in a statement. “This tournament promotes and celebrates the game of basketball in a truly unique fashion and this is a natural collaboration for the NBPA and our players.”

After the NBPA was on board, Mugar and the TBT also received buy-in from the office of New York City Mayor Eric Adams, NYC Parks, two groups that use the park — Entertainers 155 Rucker Park and the National Association of Each One Teach One Inc. — and The Doe Fund and landed Chick-Fil-A Tri State as the presenting partner.

“It’s a great development for us,” Mugar told ESPN. “It’s a great opportunity for us because we’re in Year 9 and the opportunity wouldn’t have come about without eight years of history. It was a huge undertaking to get to this point. The partnership with the NBPA, the mayor’s office, the parks department had a huge hand in it, organizations that play at Rucker Park. We wouldn’t have gotten to this point without history.”

Mugar said his dream would be for Jay Z and Fat Joe to each enter a team for the Rucker Regional, harkening back to the legendary 2003 game that never happened. The New York rappers had put together star-studded teams to face off at Rucker Park before a blackout canceled the game.

“If those two enter a team, we will match them up in Round 1,” Mugar said.

The TBT began in 2014, when Notre Dame Fighting Alumni won the first championship. Overseas Elite won the next four titles before their streak ended in 2019 at the hands of Carmen’s Crew, a team of Ohio State alumni. Marquette-centric Golden Eagles Alumni won in 2020, with Syracuse-focused Boeheim’s Army taking the title last season.

The other regionals this summer will be held in Charleston, the University of Dayton, the University of New Mexico, Omaha, Syracuse, Wichita State University and Xavier University.

The championship team earns $1 million in a winner-take-all title game televised on ESPN. This summer’s championship game will be played at Dayton on Aug. 2.

Asked whether the Rucker Park venture opened up further outdoor options in the future — and whether the TBT had any more surprises for this summer’s event — Mugar was coy.

“Everything is an option with TBT,” he said.

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