It has been a grueling test of individual skills, attrition and mental stamina, and now the Ones Basketball League is down to 22 finalists.
Founded by 2017 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Tracy McGrady, the nationwide one-on-one competition featuring male contestants, which held regional qualifiers over the past two months in six locations—Houston, Atlanta, Chicago, New York, the D.C./Maryland/Virginia metro area and Los Angeles—will stage its inaugural championship beginning tomorrow, culminating on Saturday with the eventual winner being bestowed the title “Ruler of the Court” and awarded $250,000.
The top three aspirants from each regional have moved on to the championship round with the first place contestants among them having already pocketed $10,000 from their respective victories. In addition, four wild cards were selected by McGrady to take part in the final weekend.
A quartet of native New Yorkers will be doing battle at The Dollar Loan Center in Henderson, Nevada, a roughly 20 minute drive from the Las Vegas Strip. George Beamon (Rosalyn, NY/Manhattan College), Isaiah Brown (Queens/SUNY Potsdam), Darian Davis (Coram, NY/Dowling College) and Eugene Lawrence (Brooklyn/St. John’s) will face many former college stars and current professional players.
“This is really an amazing opportunity,” said the 31-year-old Beamon to this writer during a phone conversation on Tuesday. “I view this as a blessing from God.” Beamon, from Rosalyn, Long Island, had a stellar career at Manhattan College under head coach Steve Masiello, where the 6-foot-4 guard was a two-time First Team All-MAAC selection in the 2011-12 and 2013-14 seasons.
He suffered a season-ending injury four games into the 2012-2013 campaign but returned the following year to lift Manhattan to an NCAA tournament bid and capture the MAAC tournament MVP. Since his graduation from Manhattan, Beamon, who came out on top of the OBL Los Angeles regional after missing the New York event, has played in the NBA D-League—which has been renamed the G-League—as well overseas, including for BBC Nyon in Switzerland this past year.
“I have to credit my mother—Deborah Beamon—for always being there for me, having faith in me and believing in me throughout my basketball journey,” he emotionally expressed. Beamon said he grew up idolizing Kobe Bryant and McGrady, so to be showcasing his abilities in front of the seven-time NBA All-Star in the league he created is surreal.
“Man, it was incredible to play the regionals at UCLA and have T-Mac smiling watching me and [NBA great] Paul Pierce giving me advice and encouraging me. It was unbelievable,” he gushed.
Beamon said he still has more prime years on the court remaining but endeavors to apply his bachelor’s degree in business to remain entrenched in basketball, and use the sport as a vehicle to guide youth and provide for those in underserved communities when his competitive playing days are done.
The 25-year-old Brown has had a more circuitous route to basketball success. He attended two high schools in Queens, Believe Prep in Rock Hill, South Carolina, and Missouri State University-West Plains before a short stint at SUNY-Potsdam, where he averaged 24.2 points per game and was named a Division III All-American in the 2019-2020 season. Brown has subsequently worked for two years for the YMCA in Jamaica, Queens, while sharpening his basketball tools in local New York City tournaments.
A door to engage in the OBL New York regional was opened for Brown and he emerged as the champion, compiling a record of 12-2 over two days. “I see myself as being an inspiration for others who may be thinking about giving up on the game because they are not getting opportunities,” said Brown.
“It hasn’t been the easiest path for me, but I’ve always thought I had the talent or more talent than a lot of guys who have played at higher levels. But I’m not envious or bitter. I’m happy for guys who have made it. It’s now about me continuing to grow and build,” he said humbly.
The Queensbridge Houses native is known on the New York courts as Leaky Roof, a moniker given to him by Daniel Artest, the younger brother of New York basketball icon Ron Artest, the most well known hoops product from Queensbridge. When asked how the name came about, the
6-foot-6 Brown confidently replied, “Because I get buckets!”
He hopes his rise in the OBL will gain the attention of professional teams. “I’m a grinder,” said Brown, who doesn’t have an agent but is likely to hear from some if his on-court prowess continues to expand. “I’m going to keep working hard, post videos on social media and just shape my brand. In my heart I know my time is coming.”
Also representing New York at the finals will be 29-year-old Harlem native Davis, who averaged more than 18 points per game in three years (2012-15) for Dowling College on Long Island. The veteran of the contingent is the 36-year-old Lawrence, who capped his days at St. John’s top five in career assists for the storied Red Storm program, including averaging a Big East Conference leading 5.6 in the 2007-08 campaign.