As ball players (or any athlete for that matter), we have windows-shelf life of anywhere from 10-20 years of being able to play the game we love. In the summer of 2001, Mike Reckord's window slammed shut when the comp he used to call youngin's, transformed into thoroughbreds.
"I was in a pro-am event, and I couldn't get my shot off," Reckord said. "Everyone was quicker, and the young guys just had too much. I knew I had to retire."
As a former JuCo player out of Richland College in his native Dallas, Texas, he had more game than your typical weekend warrior, nowhere near pro level but competitive and fit enough to run with the top-notch local talent. Once father time made him ride the pine, he thought of a new way to leave his mark on the game.
Reckord, who became an ATL-ien in 1995 after graduating from Texas Tech and runs both an IT recruiting company and a marketing company, envisioned running his own tournament. In the summer of 2002, he started the Southern Classic Roundball Invitational just to see what type of response he'd get. Teams from neighboring states like South Carolina, Tennessee and Alabama showed love but by the time the championship game rolled around, two teams from the A remained. One team, called the Hitman's Drillers (pause), had four NBA players on it (Dale Davis, Anthony "Pig" Miller, Willie Anderson and Chris Dudley). The other team to reach the finals, the Dirty South BBQ, was essentially built out of local college players.
To nearly everyone's surprise, DSBBQ pulled out a W (I don't care what T Pain or Jamie Foxx say, I'm blaming that on the Dudley). With turnout crowds and NBA players getting in on the action, Reckord's business savvy kicked in and he knew he had something he could build on.
"From that point on sponsors really took notice: Nike, Pepsi and Gatorade came along to make the tournament bigger," Reckord said. "A few years later, we had Jordan get down and sponsor the championship (the MVP gets gear from Jordan and all chip winners get a special Jordan edition I-pod). From day one, we wanted to become a brand."
Since then, his brand has enticed the likes of Rajon Rondo, Jarrett Jack, Travis Best, Steve Smith, Antonio Davis, Josh Smith and former Orlando Magic gunner, "3-D" Dennis Scott to join on as tournament commissioner.
"I saw Mike's love for the game and we liked each other's ideas," Scott said. "Working together has just been the perfect situation and we've got some great things in place for the future."
In the immediate future, the Southern Classic Roundball Invitational will team up with two other tournaments, the FedEx Pro-Am in Dallas, Texas, from July 17-19 and the Pre-Memorial Day tournament down in Miami, Fla., from May 21-23, to form the King of Hoops tour. The winners from those events will then come up to Atlanta in August, from the 20-22, to test prove they run the south.
Last year, after over 30 teams came to compete and take on the best below the Bible-belt, Reckord has plans of taking his tournament Los Angeles, Chi-Town and of course (cue Alicia Keys) New York in the very near future.
For more info on how to get your squad in the Southern Classic, hit Mike up at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. And make sure to check out the Web site at www.scroundball.com