February 23, 2022
BY KEITH GROLLER THE MORNING CALL

Dave Magley played in the Continental Basketball Association, a pro league that evolved out of the Eastern Basketball Association, which featured the Allentown/Lehigh Valley Jets from 1958 to 1981 and the Easton Madisons from 1956-62.

“I played for Phil Jackson and the Albany Patroons and we won a CBA championship,” Magley said. “Once you got past your ego and not playing in the NBA, the CBA was actually more fun. That’s because I was drafted and played for Cleveland and we had more people at our games at the Albany Armory than we had at the Coliseum in Cleveland.”

Magley is the president of The Basketball League, a professional hoops league that will make its debut in the Lehigh Valley next month.

The team was officially introduced along with its key personnel, sponsors, and several players at a news s conference Tuesday afternoon at the Historic Americus Hotel in downtown Allentown.

The Lehigh Valley Legends, one of 44 TBL franchises, will open its inaugural season on March 5 at the Syracuse Stallions.

The first Legends home game, also against Syracuse, is set for 3 p.m. March 6 at Allen High School’s Sewards Gym.

The Legends will play 24 games, 12 home and 12 away, through May 29 with playoffs to follow.

The Legends are scheduled for five Sunday afternoon games at Allen, two Saturday night games at Dieruff, one Saturday night game at Easton Area High School and four Friday night games at Easton Area Middle School.

Magley had been the commissioner of the National Basketball League of Canada and then became the president and chief operating officer of North American Premier Basketball League in 2017. The NAPBL became the TBL in July 2017 and the first season took place in 2018 with eight teams.

“Playing in the CBA was a unique experience for me, but there’s really nothing like it in the United States,” he said. “You have the NBA and the G League is a pure development league. And it would be impossible for Allentown to have a G League team because you have to be within a half-hour of your A team because it’s really a JV team. The G League is not about the community as much as it is about getting a player ready to play in the NBA. We’re much more about the community.”

Magley said TBL will have elements of the EBA and the CBA, which developed a large following in some towns and once drew large crowds in Allentown at Central Catholic’s Rockne Hall and Allen when the gym was known as the Phys Ed Center.

“If we do it well, we can really be a community asset,” he said. “We consider ourselves a pro league and not a semi-pro league because we’re the only league in the U.S. not affiliated with the NBA. Every player gets paid and it gives players an opportunity to play pro ball around the world.”

Magley said he really is pleased that the league’s ownership and coaches “really look like our players.”

He said the fact that the NFL has just one black coach shows it is “tone deaf.”

“Our players can dream a bigger dream because their playing days are going to end one day,” Magley said. “I never thought I would look like I do and be out of shape. I thought I’d be skinny and play forever. But that doesn’t mean that all of the things we’ve invested in have to end and the players can go on to do whatever they want to do. We call our owners market owners because they own the market. They do not own the kids. When the kid wants to leave and go to another country to play, we encourage that.”

Magley likes the idea of playing primarily in the spring because he said the high school and college seasons are winding down and the most compelling part of the NBA playoffs aren’t until June.

The Enid (Oklahoma) Outlaws were last year’s TBL champs.

The Legends would love to win the 2022 crown but are more excited about just getting started.

“It has been a long time coming because we’ve been building this for two years and COVID kind of pushed things back,” said Kenric Carter, team president and a co-team market owner with James Stewart. “We’re building our fan base and we’re getting out in the community slowly but surely and we’re just trying to create some excitement for our first season.”

In terms of what fans can expect, Carter said they’re going to see a high-level of basketball.

“They’re going to see great basketball, but they’re also going to see great sportsmanship,” Carter said. “They’re going to see community leaders. I know when I was a kid and a basketball player came into my classroom it was like the best thing ever and we want to create that excitement in our community.”

The team introduced Michael Spence as one of its players. Spence is a youth pastor at Phillipsburg (New Jersey) Alliance Church and runs a community center called The Crossbar in P’burg.

“I’m looking to give back to the community by not only providing a good brand of basketball, but also just to give our youth hope,” Spence said. “I go by the code that the two most important days for a man are the day he is born and the day he finds out why. I don’t believe basketball is my why, but I believe it leads back to my why.”

Spence said: “We’re going to bring it every night. Bring your hard hat and bring your popcorn.”

The team also introduced Antawn Dobie as its head coach and director of player development. Dobie was a star player at Monsignor McClancy Memorial High School in Queens, New York, and also at Long Island University before playing professionally in a variety of European leagues.

When the team was first introduced last fall, Al Blount, a longtime area high school and AAU coach and clinician was announced as the coach but Blount resigned last month citing “management over-reach.”

When Carter was asked about Blount’s departure, he said: “There were personal reasons behind him leaving. We wanted him to stay. We reached out to see what we could do, but unfortunately, it just wasn’t the right time and fit. We wish him the best with any future endeavors, but unfortunately had to move on.”

In addition to adding Dobie as head coach, the Legends have added numerous sponsors.

St. Luke’s University Health Network and St. Lukes Sports Medicine will be the lead sponsor and exclusive health network.

D11Sports.com, co-led by Al DiCarlo and Dave Mika Jr., have signed on as the exclusive live streaming service, and the Historic Americus Hotel will be the official team hotel and house the team when needed.

Tickets cost $10 if purchased in advance, $12 on game day, $4 for youth, $6 for seniors, and $8 with a discount code.

Go to www.lehighvalleylegends.com for more info.