By Amber N. Anderson
Chicago has always been known for its basketball culture and producing some of the top athletes in the nation, from Jabari Parker, Derrick Rose, to Talen Horton-Tucker. The sport of basketball has always been a key component to the culture of the city. While over time it has changed, Brandon Smith, the creator of the ‘Ballout Group’ in which he started with his childhood friend Dijon Knight; a premier basketball group focused on showcasing the athletes of the future through events and programs; has plans to get Chicago basketball culture back to its traditional roots.
The culture of basketball has been playing a vital role in Smith’s life since the age of eight years old, after being apart of basketball for over two decades he didn't want to just give it all up. This led to the creation of the Ballout Group, where he and Knight could essentially piece events together and provide opportunities for exposure, entertainment, and elite competition, Smith said.
This past August, Smith hosted the first ever ‘Chi Jam’ at Jones College Prep located at 700 S. State, a two on two tournaments featuring Chicago’s top senior prospects. Athletes such as Antonio Reeves, a very promising prospect in the class of 2019, was featured in the tournament who has made a big return to Chicago for this upcoming season playing for the Simeon Career Academy; as well as ESPN top 100 high school athlete, Markese Jacob.
While two on two tournaments are not the traditional tournaments that people are accustomed to watching, the concept was inspired by the video game, ‘NBA JAM’.
“I thought so long and hard to myself, why not recreate a video game that some of the kids have played before. Everyone wants to be in a video game, well at least I did growing up., Seeing my face on the NBA 2K cover would have exceeded all my dreams.”
Smith wanted Chi Jam to have the same impact as the video game, he and his team moved forward with creating Chi jam based around the concept of NBA Jam but, specifically for Chicagoland's top senior prospects with two on two tournaments, so that all attention was directed towards the players.
In order to continue providing exposure to athletes and introducing basketball culture to every athlete that he and his team can get their hands on, this upcoming fall Ballout will have a Youth Fall League taking place in Indianapolis. He is also planning the Windy City All-Star Games. At this event, they will be identifying top talent and inviting them to participate in events/programs much similar to the Mcdonald’s Classic.
Chicago Basketball culture will always play an incremental role in Smith's life. He compares the culture to being in a fraternity.
“Everyone can go and pledge, but only a few will be selected to be in that elite group. It’s extremely ‘cliche’, but once you’re in, you’re taken care of.”
Smith will continue to introduce the culture of basketball to athletes all throughout the Chicagoland area, he will push forward with his plans to change it in a positive light through providing exposure to athletes by hosting unique events that the public often does not see. Chicago Culture isn't changing, but it’s evolving.