Alex McLean retired from his professional basketball career this past spring, but his competitive nature still has a pulse.
The 30-year-old Northport resident is one of several hoopsters with local ties participating in The Basketball Tournament, an event that draws 64 teams from across the country and pays $2 million to the winner. Former Knicks Michael Sweetney, DerMarr Johnson, Mike Bibby, Earl Barron and Renaldo Balkman and former Nets Josh Boone and Tyshawn Taylor are among the dozens of players with NBA experience.
“The money is an obvious thing, but I think it’s cool to just be able to play against top guys from all over the world,” said McLean, a 2003 graduate of Bay Shore High School who played overseas for eight years. “It’s kind of like a mini-March Madness.”
The tournament began July 9, when the West and South regionals tipped. The Northeast and Midwest regionals’ first-round games are July 16. ESPN will televise the semifinals and championship, which will be held at Fordham’s Rose Hill Gym on July 30 and Aug. 2.
McLean said he was asked to participate in each of the first two TBTs, in 2014 and 2015 but added that he either was injured or rehabbing at the time. This year, when Jason Curry called to gauge McLean’s interest in joining his Big Apple Basketball squad, the answer required little thought.
“I’ve only been retired for a few months,” McLean said, “so I’ve still got the edge to get in the gym and play a little bit.”
Other participants have been retired longer. Sweetney last appeared in the NBA in 2007, and Johnson played five games with the Spurs in 2007-08. The most intriguing backcourt duo features Bibby and Jason Williams, two former lottery picks who were traded for each other in 2001. Bibby retired in 2012, a year after Williams played his last NBA game.
They will play for Pedro’s Posse. Juan Bernal, the team’s general manager, said many of the former NBA players are motivated less by the monetary prize than the platform for competition.
“The bottom line is a lot of people that played basketball for a living love to do it,” Bernal said. “You have certain guys that are in it for the lifestyle and the money, but you have guys like Jason and Bibby that love to play the game.”
Bibby and Williams never played together in the NBA, but Bernal said Bibby requested to join Pedro’s Posse so he could team up with Williams, known for his flashy ballhandling and passing abilities. But TBT also offers old friends and teammates the opportunity to reconnect.
Syracuse, Villanova, Notre Dame, Marquette, VCU and Davidson — which features former St. Mary’s High School star Kenny Grant — are among the colleges with alumni teams. DJ Kennedy and Paris Horne, key members of St. John’s 2011 NCAA Tournament team, will share the court for defending champion Overseas Elite.
Former St. John’s forward Sean Evans will play for FOE, a team organized by twins and NBA players Marcus and Markieff Morris, who grew up with Evans in Philadelphia. Tyshawn Taylor also is on the team.
“The money is definitely what you want to win,” Evans said, “but it’s just an experience and getting to play with the guys, represent the city, yourself. That’s the main thing.”