The top 8 boys and girls teams from around Chicago competed in the Gatorade Jr. NBA All-Star Invitational at Navy Pier Saturday, February 15th. Held during NBA All-Star 2020, the tournament kicked off at 9 am with the semifinals. Teams went head to head in a single-elimination tournament pitting the top 13 and 14-year-old players against one another for the chance to play in the championships held later that day at Wintrust Arena.
At the end of the semifinals, the two girls teams that advanced to play in the championships were the ladies from Alexander Graham Bell Elementary School and Legacy Charter School. The two boys teams that went on to compete in the championships were Ariel Elementary Community Academy and KIPP Ascend Charter. The championship games tipped off at 4 pm at Wintrust Arena were NBA legends Tim Hardaway, a Chicago native, and Robert Horry served as honorary coaches for the boy’s teams. WNBA champions Stefanie Dolson and Jordin Canada served as honorary coaches for the girls’ teams.
In the end, the girls from Alexander Graham Bell Elementary took home the win with a score of 55-23, and the boys from Ariel Elementary Community Academy defeated KIPP with a score of 74-63. The winning boys and girls teams both earned the chance to compete in the Jr. NBA Global Championship Midwest Regional in Westfield Indiana in June.
The love for the game was shown, and the drive to win was evident in each game. The high energy in the room could not only be sensed but also felt through guest appearances by NBA stars like Eric Paschall and Russell Westbrook stopping by to show their support, as well as from the Special Olympics team and NBA Cares members.
Christa Carter-Williams, Contributing Writer
Paula J. Shelton, Contributing Writer