SLAMBALL began in a small warehouse in Los Angeles on a makeshift court cobbled together from spare parts. The beginning of the idea started with the ambition to create a fully realized sport that was inspired by the strategies, aesthetics and pacing of video games. I thought about a sport where the athletes fly higher and hit harder – performing feats that were once the exclusive domain of the pixelated athletes from Playstation, Xbox and Nintendo. Having grown up with the earliest examples of the UFC and their mixing of different kind of fighting styles, SlamBall quickly found it’s form as a mash-up team sport derived from parts of basketball, football, hockey and gymnastics.
Early experimentation on the SlamBall court
I took SlamBall to Mike Tollin, a genius producer who has brought to the screen sports-themed and other projects like ARLI$$, Coach Carter, Wild Hogs, Smallville, Bronx is Burning and Radio. He thought I was crazy at first, but I kept coming and I kept talking to him about how great SlamBall could become. He saw that I was either insane or I was onto something and he committed to work with me to develop the game. We’ve been working together ever since to build the sport toward global awareness and an international infrastructure.
I built the first half-court to train five players in the beginning. I had rough ideas about the rules and game play, but it needed real on-the-court R&D to make it work. I recruited dexterous, aggressive athletes from multiple sports backgrounds.
James Willis, Michael Goldman, Sean Jackson, David Redmond and Jeff Sherridan worked with me on the court for long hours as the game found it’s basic structure in the earliest weeks. Jeff was a football player from Chicago, James and David were college basketball players, Sean was an LA streetball guy and Michael was a Jewish All-American high school basketball star. We were a strange collection of athletes, but within minutes of being on the court, everyone could see where their skills fit in and how they could all work together.
Shortly afterwards, the first full court was constructed and I started pulling in additional players, which included Stan “Shakes” Fletcher, Rob Wilson and Dion Mays, who collectively raised the bar for SlamBall’s creativity and physicality. Jeff and Dion, the two guys with football backgrounds, started lighting people up in the open floor. The basketball guys didn’t like it at first, but then they started getting into it when they got to pancake the opposition (most of the time, me). The spring floor provided a phenomenal safety feature and guys could play a high-impact game for hours at full speed. The first two teams, the Mob and the Rumble played a series of games on a full court in East Los Angeles in front of a frenzied crowd. Mike got the TV people down to the warehouse and we immediately won a cable contract with what would soon become Spike TV.
From the beginning, Stan Fletcher shook up the competition
One of my rare highlights.
SB1 – THE FIRST SEASON
SlamBall’s debut on Spike TV was covered by ESPN’s Sportscenter, the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, New York Times, Sports Illustrated, Time Magazine and many more premium news outlets. SlamBall’s high-flying, hard-hitting roots were refined and developed by coaches we recruited to incorporate real offensive concepts and defensive philosophies.
The Mob and Rumble were joined by the Diablos, Steal, Bouncers and Slashers. The first overall draft pick was Rob Wilson, a 6’9” 250lb Stopper out of Toronto, Canada and a holdover from the East LA series. Wilson was a top flight professional basketball player overseas and helped set a professional tone among the motley collection of athletes gathered for the initial season.
The action from the first season was inspired and saw some of the most amazing plays anywhere in sports. The rapidly-developing strategies started to be effective and teams developed personalities around their stars, including the Mob’s smash-mouth football-style and the Rumble’s smug bad-boy swagger.
LaMonica Garrett became the prototypical football athlete to make the jump to SlamBall
Dion Mays redefined the Stopper position with physicality, grit and superior timing
Top performers in the first season made the All-SlamBall team. Sean Jackson and Stan Fletcher were explosive. David Jackson, a Va Tech basketball player, was unreal in leading the Diablos to the championship game and Dion Mays was the League MVP.
The Rumble captured the first SlamBall championship and Coach Carter (Yes, THE Coach Carter) hoisted the trophy.
SB2 – THE SECOND SEASON
SlamBall’s second season brought the defense into the fore as a new wave of defensive dreadnaughts took the league by storm. These premiere Stoppers, including Adam Hooker, George Byrd, Rodney Bond and Kevin Cassidy were a revolution at the backline, posting mind-blowing stats including Adam Hooker’s record 36 stops in a single game. This wave of Stoppers averaged north of 20 stops per game, dramatically up from the top first season average or nine or so. This defensive development spurred the offense into more and more complex patterns that were necessary to outmaneuver the Stopper. You couldn’t just go straight at the defense and score at a high percentage. You needed to misdirect the defense and work with your teammates to score.
Familiar faces at the rim met a host of new defensive stars to meet them on equal terms
Second-year players like the Bouncers’ Dion Bailey flourished in the air
All-around players like Noah Ballou widened the desired skill sets at each position
Players had to get higher and more creative to finish against a new-breed of defenders
University of Kansas product, Jelani Janisse, won the second season MVP award
James “Champ” Willis leads two separate teams to back-to-back championships in successive seasons.
The Riders, an expansion team featuring Rumble championship-team castoff James “Champ” Willis, Big George Byrd and former backup Calvin Patterson at Handler, got hot down the stretch and captured the second championship title for coach Xavier McDaniel.
SB3 – THE THIRD SEASON
The third season of SlamBall was a global phenomenon, as the game was, for the first time, widely distributed overseas on major outlets like Meidaset (Italy), CCTV (China), Cuatro (Spain) and Asia (AXN), gaining real traction as a sport. This exposure has since poised the game for US and international expansion. Teams, players and coaches all came into the season looking to make a statement. In the most fiercely contested season to date, the Slashers narrowly defeated the Rumble as CBS Sports broadcast the game and it posted impressive ratings opposite the NFL on Fox and NASCAR on ABC. Adam Hooker, the Slashers’ phenomenal Stopper, won the MVP award.
Corey Beezhold exploded into SlamBall with a mind-boggling set of skills
An amazing rookie class was headlined by Univ of Pacific guard and Internet dunking sensation Myree Bowden AKA The Reemix
Stan Fletcher continued developing his ludicrously creative repertoire on offense including an all-new innovation, “the Shakedown”
SlamBall has since made appearances at the NBA All-Star Weekend and is developing upcoming tournaments in the US and in multiple overseas markets.
Connect to More Great SlamBall Stuff:
Al Jones is a trip. Seriously, the guy is out there…and I mean that in a good way. An undersized Stopper who can slide out seamlessly to the gunner position, Al coined the term “Stunner”, which I think he spells “Stunna”, as a combination gunner/stopper utility player that can come...
In this edition of Who Ya Got?, Dion Bailey goes up against Noah Ballou in a face-off. Bailey runs down the court and onto the tramps as Ballou comes in from the side. They meet just before the hoop. Ballou swats the ball out of Bailey’s hand, stopping him from...
LaMonica Garrett hits Whitney White as he is entering the tramps, sending them into a face-off. As the whistle is blown, Garrett takes off from the side and makes his way to the center. White comes in from the top and makes his way to the hoop. Garrett meets White...
I always find it amusing when people ask, “What do the coaches do in SlamBall?” Coaching in SlamBall is highly demanding. Coaches are constantly under pressure to make personnel adjustments on the fly to take advantage of match-ups or tempo changes. They have to push their athletes through pain and...