WASHINGTON — Red Bull Reign is not your typical 3-on-3 basketball tournament.
With a unique format lending itself to no downtime after made baskets to take a breather or get set on defense — plus no time to celebrate — Red Bull Reign is a test of stamina, endurance, will — and scoring. It’s all about getting buckets and playing high-octane offense.
“It definitely was an uphill battle from day one,” said Chris Howard of DC Showstoppers, who beat Team Montenegro 14-10 in the World Final. “It took a big toll on your body and definitely made you stretch some of those mental capacities you have in your brain to fight and have the will to outplay whoever you were going against.”
Players had to endure hot temperatures in the 80s with an unrelenting sun beating down. It was a neighborhood event, as Barry Farm residents in Southeast DC pulled up their lawn furniture to watch all the action across the street. It truly became basketball without borders, as 12 countries were represented at Saturday’s World Final: Argentina, Australia, Chile, Indonesia, Montenegro, Kuwait, Netherlands, Philippines, Serbia, South Korea, Turkey and the U.S.
“I’ve been to a lot of tournaments, and I like the diversity here,” said the Showstoppers’ Jamahl “J-Dub” Brown, who played semi-pro in the American Basketball Association last year. “I like how they brought everybody from different places. It’s a lot of trash talk, but at the end of the day, it’s just basketball. What they’re doing is really cool, especially in our own backyard.”
As the inaugural Red Bull Reign world champs, the Showstoppers win an all-expense-paid trip to the 2018 NBA All-Star Game in Los Angeles. The D.C. Showstoppers will be treated to tickets to events throughout the weekend, as well as exclusive access to experiences with Red Bull athletes.
“Old Man Game” Nate Flowers, who played professionally in Peru and Bolivia, told RedBull.com: “Hopefully I get to meet LeBron (James); shoutout to ‘The Land.’ Kyrie Irving is a fool for leaving him — I don’t know what he’s thinking.”
True to streetball culture, the tournament included plenty of trash talking but cooler heads prevailed. Spectators also got into the action, shouting instructions like “Get that rebound!” or “Shut him down!” and words of encouragement. Rap music pumped courtside as on-court emcees/hype men Miles Rawls (commissioner of DC’s famed Goodman League) and Bobbito Garcia (DJ with 35 years of basketball announcing in 40 countries) ran the show. “You gotta take your soul to the hole!” Rawls said emphatically.
Damir Krsmanovic, 32, of Team Serbia’s “Zlatibor” said: “No matter what goes wrong in my life, every time I set foot on that basketball court, it all goes away. I love this game and I love my friends; we share the same passion.”
Teams advanced through rounds of group play by tallying the highest point totals in each of their games. The teams scoring the most cumulative points in each division of group play advanced to the next round. Wins and losses were somewhat irrelevant; it was all about consistently scoring the most points. Under these different rules, teams adapted their strategies as it became a chess match. All teams jacked up lots of long-range shots because of the unique format.
“3-on-3 basketball is a very particular game style,” said 22-year-old Daniel Borbajo of Team Australia’s “For the Culture.” “It will expose the flaws in your individual ability as it is fast-paced and there are less players on the court.”
Saturday’s World Final was a cool melting pot of cultures, with myriad languages spoken on the sidelines — united by basketball. “It doesn’t matter what your race or language is, because it’s sports,” said Wonshik Choi, a 27-year-old fan from South Korea. “They’re all involved and it’s a great chance to all watch the games together.”
The DC area is a hotbed of producing NBA players. With many former pro players in the tourney, the hometown Showstoppers earned bragging rights. They ran the table by winning the DC qualifier, U.S. Final (which netted a $2,000 prize) and World Final, playing over 20 games in two days.
“The basketball here in the DC area is crazy because everybody plays it,” Brown told RedBull.com. “Everybody has the same style and everybody can score.”
Players like Tyrone Hill of Philadelphia’s “Hard 2 Guard” were thankful not only for the opportunity, but the hotel accommodations, food, networking and the trophies, of course.
“With D.C. winning it all, that’s just the icing on the cake,” Rawls said. “I’m going to remember this tournament for the rest of my life.”