Although basketball is a team sport, there are multiple one-on-one matchups within a game. Michael Jordan is credited with ushering in the isolation style of hoops into the NBA during the 1980s and ’90s.
Hall of Famer Tracy McGrady is another player that gravitated toward this style and was one of the best isolation players of his era. Now T-Mac has taken his best attribute on the court and turned it into the One’s Basketball League. A one-on-one league that showcases some of the best one-on-one players from around the country.
McGrady is funding the project himself for nearly $10 million, including $250,000 to the first OBL champion. The League is up and running and held its first weekend of games in Houston last month. The OBL was in New York City over the Memorial Day weekend, which only seems fitting based on the hoops history of NYC.
“I’ve always invested in other people’s ideas and other people’s vision,” McGrady said. “Not once did I ever trust mine. I didn’t have the confidence to think mine was good enough. I didn’t trust my ideas or decision-making when it came to my vision.”
If I had to choose a former NBA player to develop an idea like this, McGrady would be one of the few names at the top of the list. His name is right up there with players like Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, and Jordan when it comes to going iso. And we can’t forget Joe Johnson, aka Iso Joe, either.
McGrady also mentions how his teenage sons helped him think of the idea for the league since many kids their age aren’t watching entire NBA games. They watch highlights, YouTube, and other short-form content. So, it sounds like they’ve identified their target audience. The League already has a digital distribution deal with Paramount (owned by Showtime). This allows the Showtime network to use OBL content on their YouTube channel. So, that is a monumental step in the right direction for this start-up league.
Eventually McGrady would like to have his league included in the NBA’s All-Star weekend festivities. Ultimately the OBL is about giving ballers that may have played college basketball but didn’t make it to the NBA or play overseas a chance to showcase their talent on a big stage. One thing that will make the league different is height divisions which McGrady plans to add.
That gives it a boxing/MMA feel as those one-on-one sports feature weight classes. Nobody wants to watch 6-foot-6 guy backing down smaller players all the time. So, separating players by height should positively affect the aesthetics of the games.
Ice Cube’s Big 3 basketball league has proven that an alternative hoops option can work if properly packaged. T-Mac’s venture will be quite different as many of the players involved on the court aren’t former NBA names. Almost everyone in the Big 3, including coaches, are former NBA guys. That’s what the Big 3 had on its side from the start.
Luckily for Tracy, he’s targeting a younger demographic, so that part shouldn’t matter much. These kids today don’t really care to watch players in their 40s whom they never watched play live NBA ball. So, T-Mac could be onto something with the OBL. One of the biggest obstacles will be keeping people’s attention long-term. The energy level in the gym looks to have been picked up from the first event in Houston to last weekend in NYC. They’re still in the early stages, so I’m sure this will continue to improve over time.
This kind of has a Big 3/And 1 tour feel about it. And 1 was successful for a while, but eventually, the appeal faded. The Big3 seems to have found its niche, but will it be around in 10 years? I love the idea of another alternative for basketball fans, and hopefully, it’s properly managed and able to grow. There isn’t a ton of footage yet, but the league is live streaming now which wasn’t the case in the beginning. In today’s digital age, that needs to be a top priority.