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Lifelong Fanatics

There’s an open-enrollment basketball tournament taking place every summer since 2014 in a few cities across America. Anyone can get in, and it’s free. The winner-take-all Grand Prize is $2,000,000.

As you might expect with that kind of prize money, The Basketball Tournament (TBT) has grown to bring out the best players the summer has to offer. Almost every team (and surely, of those who win games) is stocked with current overseas pros and former NCAA college stars who are not currently in the NBA (players under NBA contract, and active NCAA players, as this is a money tournament, are blocked from participating). While TBT started as a novelty event whose first-year teams featured washed-up weekend warriors playing for fun and even an all-female squad, today, TBT is a summer professional basketball event.

In a 72-team bracket, TBT is heavy with college “alumni” teams, 27 in all for 2018. Someone associated with a college — an assistant coach, former team manager, an ex-player — organizes a group of now-pro alumni and offers them a chance to play with each other again and represent their alma mater, all with a chance at winning $2 Million. As you’d expect, lots of players sign up.

I played in TBT in 2015, and have been attending as a fan as much as schedules allow. Last year I attended two days of games in Philly. Anyone in the gym then noticed the huge fan base in orange jerseys, there to cheer for a team called Boeheim’s Army, an alumni squad repping Syracuse University.

While there seeing all these fans, I googled the distance between Syracuse and Philly; it’s a 4-hour drive. But there’s also Atlanta (location of TBT’s version of the sweet 16 this year), Chicago, and Baltimore (Final Four, for teams who make it— Syracuse came up one win shy this year). Boeheim’s Army played in all those places — and the fans showed up in full force each time.

No matter the location, Syracuse fans roll deep. And I mean really deep: They take up entire sections —plural — of a gym’s bleachers.

College fans want to cheer for their team, you may say. That’s normal. But there are 26 other alumni teams in TBT, none of whom pack the gym like Syracuse, especially on the road (a couple of teams got to play TBT games in their college’s home gyms this time around). Their fans come in all ages — even kids, kids so young that I know they weren’t old enough to have seen any of these alumni players play in their college days.

How’d they become such fanatics?

For Your Game

Build a culture around what you do and what your group represents. When people buy in to what you’re doing, they become the ambassadors that pass the devotion along to future generations. Those kiddie fans learn from their parents to be die-hard fans of the school sports teams.

It helps if there’s a central figure — maybe you — who galvanizes the followers and supplies a topic of focus. Syracuse has head basketball coach Jim Boeheim (the TBT team is named after him), who’s been coaching there for 42 years. Jim is the Syracuse hoops program.

If you can make what you do bigger than literally what you do, even better. Syracuse fans love basketball, yes, but it’s more than the game for them. Being a Syracuse fan is a lifestyle, a part of a fan’s personal identity. People don’t drive four hours (or more) to support something or someone they merely like. They drive because it’s who they are. And while we can easily move on from old clothes and no-longer-good TV shows, we don’t ever leave our identity.


PS- You can get a Free physical copy of my Confidence book The Super You here.

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