The NBA is getting way too soft. Players can flop and pretend to get hurt easily, allowing some to use it as their main strategy to score. It seems like there’s a foul pretty much every play, and it has ruined the league for many fans, including myself. Some are watching painfully, and some have switched to focusing mostly on college basketball, but there’s another new-ish alternative: SlamBall.
Originally created on the back of a paper napkin in 1999, SlamBall was a dream for basketball fans craving a more physical game. SlamBall is fairly self explanatory, as the slam dunks are worth more points than other shots. In order to make it even more appealing, the creators added multiple trampolines around every basket to allow every player to pull off acrobatic dunks and posters. Finally, it incorporates aspects of hockey and football, as penalties are rare and result in one-on-one drives with the fouled player attempting to dunk on the player guilty of the foul. The rarity of fouls makes the game more violent, with frequent pushing and tackling.
When SlamBall finally made its television debut in 2002, there were just six teams in the league, but ESPN had picked it up and produced it, providing outlets for announcers and owners who had ties to the NBA. In 2003, they were able to add two expansion teams and broadcast the sport internationally to Europe. Unfortunately, after television and production disagreements, the league struggled to return for a third season and was shut down.
It was eventually reestablished in 2007 for one season, and it had seemingly never left. The league conducted open tryouts for the draft and hosted the POWERADE SlamBall Challenge for fans to continue displaying their skills. The next massive development involved overseas expansion, as SlamBall reached Italy that summer. Once they had collected funding and selected players, the league was able to run again in 2008, with big name players and coaches from the NBA.
By 2012, SlamBall had expanded all the way to Australia and China, where it would last for four years. The original SlamBall league had shut down again after 2008, but were planning a resurgence as soon as possible. For this, they used the Chinese league as a development platform and planned on drafting players from there, however the timelines did not work out.
SlamBall made its official return in July of 2023, after it was announced a year prior. It now had massive investments from prominent names such as Michael Rubin, David Blitzer and Blake Griffin. In this new version of the league, eight teams play a six week regular season, ending with the playoffs on week seven. Both ESPN and ESPN2 aired the games every weekend and there are no plans of that stopping in 2024.
This season truly brought SlamBall back into the light. The champions, Mob, went 16-0 en route to winning the league championship, and electrifying players made numerous highlight plays. Some of the fan favorites this year included Gage Smith, the number one pick, who recorded the league’s only triple double, and Tony Crosby, who is the shortest player in the league (5’6”) but has the highest vertical leap (52”). Gaining nearly 400,000 followers across social media platforms, SlamBall’s popularity is at an all time high, so hopefully the league will stay around for years to come.