Three-time Slam Dunk champion Nate Robinson, Jason Williams and Hakim Warrick are among the hundreds of current and former professionals playing in a winner-take-all basketball tournament for $1 million.
Rosters for the second annual The Basketball Tournament were announced Monday. The 97 teams, up from 32 a year ago, include former members of National Basketball Association championship teams, first-round draft picks and reunited college teams competing for the prize live on ESPN in August.
“To grow from 32 teams in 2014 to 97 in 2015 serves as a testament to the open tournament model,” founder Jon Mugar said.
Organizers expect at least 125 players who played in the NBA or its development league to enter the single-elimination tournament. There will be more than 500 who played professionally around the world.
Robinson, 31, a former New York Knicks guard who won the NBA Slam Dunk Contest in 2006, 2009 and 2010 and played for the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Clippers this season, is on a team of local players from his native Seattle. Another team consists of Williams, who won the NBA title with the 2006 Miami Heat, and Brian Scalabrine, who was on the Boston Celtics’ championship team of 2008.
Members of the 2013 Florida Gulf Coast team that upset Georgetown in the NCAA tournament and the Mercer team that beat Duke the following year have combined to form a team called “Bracket Busters.” There is a team of former Saint Louis University athletes playing in honor of late coach Rick Majerus, who died in 2012, and a team named after Hall of Fame Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim comprised of former Orange players Eric Devendorf and Warrick and Donte Greene, both first-round NBA draft picks.
The defending champion is a team of Notre Dame alumni that includes Tim Abromaitis, Ben Hansbrough and Torin Francis. Other notable players in the tournament include former Houston Rockets forward Royce White, former Los Angeles Lakers guard Smush Parker and former Knicks forward Michael Sweetney.
Mugar, a former Tufts basketball player, launched the tournament last year without any major sponsors, advertising or television coverage. This year’s event, which doubled the prize purse, has a TV contract with ESPN and a sponsorship deal with the fantasy website DraftKings.
While the event is free to enter for anyone over 18, active NCAA players cannot participate because it would affect their eligibility. Over 300 teams applied this year, with entrants chosen based on fan support on the tournament website.
The tournament has four regional groups, which begin competition in July. The semifinals and finals will be played Aug. 1 and 2 at Fordham University in New York, and will be televised on ESPN.