A few days ago we wrote a brief article on the return of Slamball! As you may well remember, Slamball is the high flying, trampoline dominating, basketball/football mix of a sport that you couldn’t help but watch a few years ago on Spike TV. After a 5 year lay off from television and a trip overseas to grow the sport, it returns and is backed by mega-company IMG and led by new commissioner Pat Croce. The league expects big things this time around including a new TV deal in hopes of becoming the “Arena football of the NBA.”
I was approached by one of the league’s coaches last week to help promote the return of Slamball by posing as an outlet for the sport during its rebirth. Brendan Kirsch of the MOB took a few minutes out to chat about the league, his love for Spike TV, Pat Croce, and his role in the new Will Ferrell hit ‘Semi-Pro.’
Le Basketbawl: Why the return of Slamball and what should we be expecting after a 5 year absence?
Brendan Kirsch: Timing is everything and 2002, 2003 was not the right time for Slamball in the US. Trust me when I say that no one involved with Slamball ever thought of it as a “made for tv sport” but that’s all we kept hearing because execs with the network were trying to format the sport in a 30 minute time slot. Our executives wanted to get as far away from that as possible, so they took the sport off the network and went overseas. We played exhibition tours all over Europe until they felt it was the right time to come back to the States. Now that we are back, we’ve partnered with the professionals at IMG and Slamball is stronger than it ever has been.
After five years, the sport is going to be testing new limits and finding even more talent all over the world.
LB: Would we recognize anyone from the league: players, coaches, personalities, announcers, etc.? And who should we be looking out for?
BK: Yes. Many of the Slamball veterans will be back for the season, but the beauty of Slamball is that it’s a league with truly open tryouts. We have tryouts this year in LA on April 6th, NYC on April 9th and Bradenton, Florida on April 10th. Even the Slamball veterans who played both seasons have to go through the tryout process. That being said, I think we’ll find that having played the sport before is going to give those guys an advantage. It will probably end up being a solid mix of superstars from season 1 & 2 and new hybrid athletes. As he has been from the beginning Pat Croce is our Commissioner. Mason Gordon (creator) is the CEO and Rob Wilson, who was the first ever draft pick in Slamball history (Bouncers) is the Director of Player Personnel. We are looking to hire other coaches in the coming weeks and a lot of ex-NBA guys have shown interest.
LB: How is being a coach in Slamball different from the regular game of basketball?
BK: It is very different. The toughest thing is that basketball has been around since 1891. So as you grow up playing and then coaching the game, you are familiar with thousands of drills and hundreds of offensive and defensive philosophies. With Slamball, every drill has to be invented. Every philosophy has to be invented and tested… It’s exciting and in all honesty, to this day I wake up in the middle of the night with ideas for new strategy and philosophy that I think may help develop the sport.
LB: How can people stay updated on the league? Possible TV deal in the works?
BK: Our website is the best way at http://www.slamball.net/, and a TV deal is in the works. By the time we go to training camp in April, it will be solidified. And trust me, it won’t be Spike TV. (Laughs)
LB: Tell me about Pat Croce and what he means for the league.
BK: Pat is a professional and everything he has touched throughout his career has turned to gold. He is a high energy human being and he truly cares about the sport and its’ success. Having a man like Croce in your corner makes just about anything possible.
LB: If fans are interested in checking out a live game, how can they?
BK: A few different cities are bidding for the season this year. The home city will be named soon, and ticket information will be on our website. Slamball is amazing on television, but if you ever find someone who was at a game, they’ll tell you, it’s a whole different experience.
LB: What do you expect in the long run?
BK: After this season, Slamball will sell the 8 franchises to 8 different cities and the league will run from there. We want Slamball to be a mainstream sport someday, co-existing with the NBA. What the UFC is to boxing and Arena Football is to the NFL, we’d like to be to the NBA.
LB: Is it true you helped out with the new Will Ferrell flick ‘Semi-Pro’ and were a regular on ‘One Tree Hill’?
BK: (Laughs out loud!) When Slamball went on hiatus, I started getting hired by a lot of movie and television productions to coordinate their basketball and teach the actors how to play. It IS true that I did the basketball for the Will Ferrell movie, Semi-Pro (and Will can actually play, body build aside) (Laughs). I was never a regular on One Tree Hill, but I did all the basketball for the last 5 seasons.
LB: Anything else you want to bring up to the fans?
BK: Just that Slamball is a poetic sport to watch. It will succeed and we want you to come along for the ride. Your readers and our fans are what it’s all about. We have a beautiful sport played by blue collar yet extremely talented athletes who play without fear. Who hit and get hit 20 feet in the air. Who play without multi-million dollar contracts. It’s a good sport.
A huge THANKS goes out to Brendan for taking a few minutes with us! Please continue to check back at Le Basketbawl for updates on the league including news on the upcoming tryouts!