In an effort to bring a sense of accomplishment back to championship summer basketball tournaments, Nike has announced that it's setting up the Nike summer basketball circuit as a league--not just a collection of tournaments.
The Nike Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL) will feature the 42 elite travel teams sponsored by Nike competing in a summer-long league format.
The EYBL will take previous Nike-run tournaments and turn them into "sessions" of four or five games each before a final tournament crowns an EYBL champion.
The three sessions will take place in Hampton, Va. (Session 1, April 9-11), Houston, Texas (Session 2, May 14-16) and in Los Angeles, Calif. (Session 3, May 29-31). The EYBL Finals will take place at the Nike Peach Jam in North Augusta, S.C., from July 12-15.
"One of the knocks on summer basketball is you're playing for a championship every weekend," said Jim Hart, coach and president of the Albany City Rocks out of New York. "That's not realistic. Kobe Bryant doesn't play for a championship every weekend. North Carolina doesn't. It tends to devalue the event.
"If there's a trophy given every weekend, how important can that trophy be?"
To answer that, Nike introduced a new format for its elite teams that allow for a buildup to the Peach Jam, a tournament which is also played during the NCAA evaluation period in early July.
"I think it's really good," Hart said. "You'll have standings so every game will be important. It's another way Nike is doing things cutting-edge. I'm proud and happy to be a part of that."
Nike sponsors 42 of the top boys club basketball programs in the United States, which will now all play together in the EYBL. Sponsorship and subsequent participation in the Elite Youth Basketball League are invitation-only.
In addition to the EYBL, Nike-sponsored teams are given the opportunity to participate in skills academies and other elite events.