Slam Dunk to the Beach is coming back.
The popular boys high school basketball tournament, which annually drew many of the nation’s top players and teams to Delaware from 1990 to 2003, will return Dec. 27-29, 2014, at Cape Henlopen High School in Lewes, The News Journal has learned.
A press conference will be held Monday morning at the Rehoboth Beach bandstand to promote the new event. Sen. Tom Carper, Gov. Jack Markell and Alan Levin, director of the Delaware Economic Development Office, are expected to attend.
The original Slam Dunk to the Beach was founded in 1990 by Robert F. “Bobby” Jacobs. The tournament had a successful run, attracting high school teams featuring such current NBA stars as LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony to Cape Henlopen.
But Jacobs abruptly canceled the tournament in November 2004, citing health issues. In the weeks that followed, a series of vendors and businesses came forward to say they had not been paid by Jacobs for the 2003 tournament.
In January 2008 Jacobs was sentenced to two years in prison, with one year suspended, and was ordered to pay $400,000 in restitution after pleading no contest to one felony count of misappropriation of property for takingthousands of dollars from the tournament fund.
The new event has been founded by the Delaware Sports Commission, a group of sports and business leaders formed in 2008 to increase economic impact in Delaware through sporting events.
“Since the sports commission came into existence, we’ve been looking for a signature event,” said Matthew Robinson, chairman of the DSC’s board of directors and a professor of sports management at the University of Delaware. “Our primary purpose is to try to use sport for economic development purposes.
“We consistently heard people talk about bringing back Slam Dunk. We took about a year to investigate it and see if it was something we wanted to do. All indications were that the community wanted it, so we decided to move forward and try to relaunch it for next year.”
The DSC has hired Position Sports, a Mesa, Ariz.,-based sports marketing firm that specializes in basketball, to operate the new tournament.
“We’re going to be relying on them to run the operations of the tournament, the selection of the teams and trying to ensure that it’s a first-class event,” Robinson said. “Our role as the sports commission, we’re overseeing the finances of it. The budgets and those types of things.”
Position Sports has been involved with other national high school basketball tournaments, as well as the Jordan Brand Classic, Nike camps and events featuring current and former NBA stars.
Robinson said the number of teams and format for the tournament have not been determined. But he said Delaware teams certainly would be among those invited.
The new Slam Dunk tournament is the first event founded by the DSC. In the past, the DSC has worked to match sporting events with venues in the First State. DSC helped the University of Delaware earn the right to host the American Collegiate Hockey Association men’s and women’s national championships in March 2014. DSC also aided First State BMX in Milford in hosting the First State National BMX bicycle racing event this weekend.
The old Slam Dunk tournament was popular among Sussex County businesses because it brought thousands of players, coaches and fans to the area, filling hotels and restaurants during the offseason.
Robinson is confident the new tournament will have the same impact. Cape Henlopen High athletic director Bob Cilento said the Vikings’ modern gymnasium, which opened in 2009, can seat up to 2,200 fans.
“True economic impact is bringing a visitor to a site who otherwise would not be there,” Robinson said. “I think Slam Dunk to the Beach is a classic example of that. We’ll be bringing visitors to the beach communities who otherwise would not be there.”
DSC received an $80,000 grant from the state of Delaware to help with start-up costs.
Robinson said DSC may apply for future grants from state, county and local governments, but that will be determined by the tournament’s financial performance.
“That money was to help us get up and running,” Robinson said. “But our ultimate goal is to become financially viable and solvent, so that we’re self-sufficient for years to come.”
Robinson is hopeful that revenue from ticket sales, sponsorships and a possible TV deal will cover the tournament’s budget.
Robinson said DSC will work toward getting at least one tournament game televised by a national or regional sports network.
“I’m excited to see the tournament come back. I think it’s a good thing,” said Kevin Charles, executive director of the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association and a DSC board member.
“I think it’s good for Delaware basketball, and it’s good for the economy in the Lewes area.”
Charles said the tournament will need to be sanctioned by DIAA. Charles said he had met with David Arthur, executive director of the DSC, and had been assured the tournament will abide by rules set by the National Federation of State High School Associations.
“I have absolute confidence that it’s going to end up being a positive experience,” Charles said. “We’re not going to repeat the problems that we had in the past.”