The Rapidian

Downtown invitational attracts eight teams for a basketball rumble in Heartside

Last Saturday afternoon, May 21, eight teams descended on the alley behind the Division Avenue Arts Collective for the first downtown invitational: a tournament of three-on-three basketball.
Underwriting support from:

/Jaime Johnson

"Master chalkboard."

"Master chalkboard." /Courtesy of Patrick Lelli

Last Saturday afternoon, May 21, eight teams descended on the alley behind the Division Avenue Arts Collective (115 S. Division) for the first downtown invitational: a tournament of three-on-three basketball.

The eight teams assembled were "Something Vicious," "The Bourne Identities," "The Angel Fish," "The Real Pipe Dawgs," "Jordaches," "The Raw Kin," "The Moments" and "King Voldemort." Teams consisted of local Grand Rapidians, Ann Arbor and Kalamazoo players with a broad range of previous basketball experience. Many walk-ins were able to join in throughout by subbing on various teams, including Sam Snedeker who said he hadn’t played since childhood. The games went on until the evening through sunshine and rain with "Something Vicious" rising as the victor.

Patrick Lelli created the basketball court and planned the invitational. He explained, “I’ve always had a basketball hoop in my driveway growing up [and] it seemed like the perfect space to set up a small half court.”

The idea dawned on Lelli while he was shooting hoops with a friend. It would be a way to get people together to play basketball and have fun.

“I didn’t think we were going to have enough players just because it’s hard to get that many people together at the same time, but it worked out perfectly,” Lelli said. The tournament was postponed until May 21 due to inclement weather, and it was advertised—not through traditional social media like Facebook but—by “just telling friends."

At first, Lelli thought it would be difficult to pull together "because it has to be a party or something else going on for people to be interested instead of just playing a game." However, with the success of the first downtown invitational, there is talk of a second invitational toward the end of summer. There are hopes to double the turnout of teams and the possible formation of a downtown league.

'Til then, keep practicing your shots—remember, no dunks—and keep your ears open for the second invitational.

Disclosure: I was a member of Team "King Voldemort."

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