When his B&B Lounge team lost in the semi-finals of last year’s Baby Boomers (over 40) Basketball League playoffs, former Henninger High School and Syracuse University standout Lazarus Sims said he would definitely be back on the Southwest Community Center court this season. “This is my neighborhood,” he said then.
The current Binghamton University coach debuted this season December 8, as B&B lost to Show Time, but it wasn’t on the turf which has hosted BBBL action for the past 15 years. This year’s games are being played at McChesney Park, on the Northside behind Grant School, 2300 Grant Boulevard.
“It was a money issue with the building,” explains Show Time’s Julius “Pops” Anderson, who has played on eight league championship teams and had announced that last year would be his last run. “I think they wanted us to come up with $8,000 (for utilities) beyond the $600 registration fee each team was already paying.” During the season the players chip in each game to cover the $40 charge for each of two referees.
The relocation was facilitated by Syracuse Department of Parks, Recreation and Youth Programs’ Jesse Brantley, who plays for B&B Lounge.
“As far as the players,” Anderson projected on the effect of the move before the games began, “I don’t think it would. But on family and friends (spectators) I think it would, a great deal.”
So far, however, Anderson and Brantley have been pleasantly surprised. “It’s going well so far,” Brantley observes. “The crowd didn’t waver. We might be missing a few from the community who came because the building (SWCC) was open, but most folks drove anyway.”
That assessment is shared by Howard Triche, who teamed with Anderson for a state championship at Corcoran High School before toiling for SU and in the NBA. The two combined for BBBL championships with Ballard Construction, but Triche missed last year’s finals with a knee injury. He did run the floor for Show Time’s victory over B&B, but, now 49, he says he may need surgery. What’s important for Triche is being back in shape for the following year. “My goal,” he reflects, “is at 50 to still be able to dunk.”
Anderson, 52, has rescinded his decision to bow out of league play, having broken his wrist in last year’s loss in the finals to Flav Unit, maintaining that even without Triche he can go out a winner this year, with teammates including former Nottingham High School star Pony Bullock and former LeMoyne College standout Bobby Chestnut.
One serious difference resulting from the move is the absence of the finger lickin’ soul food spreads which provided a major attraction at Southwest.
“It won’t stop the guys from playing,” Triche notes of the relocation. “They’ll whine for awhile, but they want the competition. They’ve played against each other going back to the playgrounds and in school. It keeps people coming back because they want to see what they can still do, even though they’re bodies don’t always let them. In the first few games they tend to see how out of shape they are.”
One attraction that still remains, the 16 game Sunday schedules are open to the public free of charge. Another is the ascorbic courtside commentary, especially on questionable calls by the officials, provided loudly by league co-founder and coordinator Ed Mitchell, as he operates the electronic scoreboard and game clock.
This is an updated version of an article which appeared in the Syracuse New Times. Walt Shepperd is a three time winner of the New York Press Association’s Writer of the Year Award, and Executive Producer of the national award winning Media Unit.