By David Cordova
Every summer, when school is out and the professional season is over, being at the park is something that everyone is fond of. Summer leagues are where it’s at. The stands are packed waiting to see the best high school talent throughout the city and want to see plenty of razzle-dazzle and oohs and aahs. It is also a chance to for these youth to establish or maintain their reputation on the court. At the Chosen League in Philadelphia, there’s plenty of that and more.
The Chosen League, which was established in 2002 by Rahim Thompson is one of the top tournaments around the East Coast and the country. It has corporate sponsors such as Nike, Mitchell & Ness, Kicks USA and Red Bull to name a few. It has also breeded plenty of talent in all of the ranks such as NBA players Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors), Marcus Morris (Phoenix Suns), Markieff Morris (Phoenix Suns), Gerald Henderson (Charlotte Hornets), Wayne Ellington (Los Angeles Lakers), JaKarr Sampson (Philadelphia 76ers) and Dion Waiters (Oklahoma City Thunder). The Chosen League’s college alumni is even better with players such as Amile Jefferson (Duke), Ja’Quan Newton (Miami), Savon Goodman (Arizona State), Markus Kennedy (SMU) and Kyle Kuzma (Utah).
This year’s Chosen League opens on Friday, June 19th at Cerashore Playground. It will host a free BBQ before the Opening Game and will have its annual Chosen Game, which will have the city’s best players in the Class of 2015 (Seniors), going up against the top players in the classes of 2016, 2017 and 2018 (Underclassmen).
Some notable players in attendance will be Derrick Jones (Archbishop Carroll/UNLV), Kimar Williams (Constitution/Florida International), Ahmad Gilbert (Constitution/Minnesota), Stevie Jordan (Conwell-Egan Catholic, Class of 2016), Josh Sharkey (Archbishop Carroll, Class of 2016), Lamarr Kimble (Neumann-Goretti/St. Joseph’s), Vaughn Covington (Neumann-Goretti, Class of 2017), Tony Carr (Roman Catholic, Class of 2016), Nazeer Bostick (Roman Catholic, Class of 2016), Sammy Foreman (Martin Luther King) and Tyheem Harmon (Martin Luther King).
This summer, there’s going to be plenty of greatness in the City of Brotherly Love. If you want to see some greatness unfold, come out to 10th Street and Olney, where the finest high school talent will be on display.
Here’s our Q&A with the founder of the Chosen League, Rahim Thompson:
Tell us about your basketball history.
I used to play basketball in Olney High School with Jason Lawson, who played in the NBA. And then I went to Drexel University. After my playing days were, I started to develop relationships in the basketball community. I had an internship with Slam Magazine in 1996. I was their Philadelphia-area representative. I was also able to experience being around the second Dream Team in Orlando before they went on to compete in the Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia.
What made you decide to start the Chosen League?
After the 1996 Olympics, I had the idea of starting a magazine. At the same time, I also realized that it would be hard. My godmother told me that I needed to start a basketball league. In 2002, I followed her advice and decided to start a league. The recreation director, Jerry Gaul, was first reluctant to allow it because he thought it was an adult’s league. Then when he realized that I was starting a high school league, he was okay with it. And then that’s when everything started.
Why was the tournament named the Chosen League?
Because when me & my brothers grew up, we went through our rites of passage and my sanctuary. So I when I started my league, I decided that teams and players would have to be chosen to compete.
What is your mission for the Chosen League?
To showcase the best players in the Philadelphia area and the tri-state area. And also bringing positivity to the community. Also, a lot of major talent that has come out of the area in the last 14 years has played in the NBA.
What makes The Chosen League unique?
Because we’re the best summer league in the country. We are the only high school league in the country that is sponsored. The competition is intense. We take a break during the live period, and we start back during the end of July. A lot of other leagues are near high-rise buildings. We are near row houses. We have people from all over the city to watch the best talent in Philadelphia. The format is different than most because every game is like a playoff game.
How many kids that have played in this event have gone on to college?
We have played 142 kids that have played on the Division I level. In the 14-year history of the league, we have 1,300 kids go to college, either on athletic scholarships or academic merits.
What are the crowds like?
The crowds are ridiculous. It is like playing at Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium. It’s a very intense atmosphere because people know their basketball. They’ve seen every generation and have something to compare you off to.
What can we expect from the Opening Game?
That was a game we started 7 years ago. Some people call it an all-star game. The graduating seniors that are going to college play against the underclassmen. That game is always intense because it is for bragging rights. The underclassmen don’t want to lose and the seniors don’t want to lose. So it can be very competitive. We have sponsors like Nike, Red Bull and the Philadelphia 76ers are great supporters of our tournament. We’re very fortunate to have the support. Playing in the Chosen League is like having a rite of passage. If you’re a top high school player, you’ve definitely played in the Chosen League.
Where do you see the Chosen League going in the future?
It’s getting bigger and better. Eventually, there may be a pro-am. The goal is to be partners of an NBA franchise. It’s not always what you know, but it’s also who you know along with what you know. I couldn’t have done this without support team such as Richard Gilliam and Michael Alexander, they have helped out a lot since the beginning. The sky is the limit for our tournament. And then there is Keith Fletcher, he’s a junior at Rosemont College. We’re grooming him so that one day, he can run the Chosen League. All in all, the sky is the limit for the Chosen League.
Footage of last year’s Chosen Game:
Courtesy of 8Eye Media™.