Return of the Slam Dunk basketball tournament is seen as a boost for businesses and sports lovers

By Larry Nagengast | Photograph by Marc Clery
From the Holiday 2014 issue

Slam DunkSome of the nation’s top high school basketball players will display their talents at Cape Henlopen High School during Christmas week, but supporters of the revived Slam Dunk to the Beach tournament say the event is about much more than three days of nonstop fast breaks in a packed gymnasium.

“It means a lot more feet on the street,” says Carol Everhart, president and CEO of the Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce.

No one is quite sure how many feet that will be “but it can’t be anything but positive,” she says.

The Delaware Sports Commission, a state agency within the Delaware Economic Development Office, is sponsoring the tournament, which will bring in 11 highly rated teams from six states and Washington, D.C., to join five from Delaware for a long weekend of holiday hoops and hoopla.

This year’s event won’t be as big as the original Slam Dunk series, which attracted more than 30 teams to Lewes at the peak of its 14-year run before its founder, Bobby Jacobs, ran into financial problems that would lead to a prison sentence.

But it will have St. Vincent-St. Mary of Akron, Ohio, renowned as the alma mater of LeBron James, and schools like Salesianum from Wilmington and Gonzaga from the nation’s capital, all known for their high-caliber programs and passionate alumni.

And, while the original Slam Dunk met its demise when it became Jacobs’ one-man show, the sports commission has hired Position Sports, an organization with nationwide experience, to handle all of the tournament’s logistics — selecting teams and arranging their travel and lodging, scheduling, ticket sales, marketing and making sure everything runs smoothly on game days.

“We’re looking forward to putting on a first-class event,” says Matt Robinson, the commission chairman and a professor of business administration at the University of Delaware, where he heads the sports management program.

The state expects to spend close to $150,000 on the tournament, primarily to cover the teams’ travel and lodging expenses and the management fee for Position Sports, Robinson says. He expects revenue from sponsorships and ticket sales to exceed expenses, and hopes it generates enough net income to create a nest egg to cover startup expenses for next year’s tournament.

On the court, the goal is to replicate the original tournament’s success.

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