One Sunday morning, Jon Mugar, a television producer from Boston and now The Basketball Tournament CEO, decided to text his friend of 20 years with a casual business idea that involved the game of basketball.
It turned out it wasn't just a simple business proposal, as Mugar's idea was the perfect opportunity to bring pick-up players, former college athletes and former NBA players (40 this year to be exact) together from around the country to create an epic single-elimination bracket called The Basketball Tournament.
"I just woke up one morning and asked, 'What would happen if you held a winner-take-all basketball tournament, open to the public, for a ton of money?" the tournament creator, Mugar, said to Bloomberg.com.
The Basketball Tournament, which began last summer and finished it's registration last week, will feature 97 teams with a $1 million cash out prize that will begin July 10-12 in four regions: Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago and Los Angeles.
"Definitely," PR and Recruiting Coordinator, Jesse Leeds, said when asked if there will be an increase in fan exposer. "Now with the four separate regionals we have a chance to expand our audience."
The semifinals and finals will be broadcasted on ESPN from August 1-2 and will take place at Fordham University in Bronx, New York.
The event, which had only 32 teams and not much national publicity when it first began, has sky rocketed since Notre Dame's team (featuring Tim Abromaitis) won the title last August, earning $500,000.
"Social media helped this take off," Leeds said. "And then this year ESPN will broadcast the games starting with the Super 17. The Super 17 and Elite 8 will be on ESPNU and the semifinals and finals will be on ESPN. It's just been a great success."
While high profile names like Jason Williams, Nate Robinson, Brian Scalabrine, Nick Young (coach), Matt Bonner (GM), Royce White, Smush Parker and Jamal Crawford (Booster) will steal the headlines, St. John's and the Big East are well represented.
The former Johnnies in the event consist of DJ Kennedy (Overseas Elite), Paris Horne (Overseas Elite), Justin Burrell (Slam), Marcus Hatten (Free Bands) and Dwight Hardy (Team Oohway). Each are playing with some teammates from overseas and probably have only an outside chance of making it to New York with the impressive amount of talent that has entered the tournament.
But there are plenty other talented former Big East players in The Basketball Tournament including Hakim Warrick, Austin Freeman, Chris Wright, Jeremy Hazell, Jordan Theodore, James Bell, among others.
The defending champion (Notre Dame) led by Abromaitis will return while Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Virginia, and Colorado have also built teams of former players to compete for the big prize.
Sure, it won't nearly have the same intrigue as the NCAA Tournament or the NBA Finals, but a simple idea by Mugar has suddenly flipped the switch for basketball as the sport tries to remain in the year long spotlight.