What is The Basketball Tournament? Rucker Park served as the first outdoor regional in TBT's history

Toyloy Brown III

ESPN cameras were rolling. Two masters of ceremonies energized spectators with quips and dance moves. Harlem, New York, was buzzing in 90-degree weather Wednesday night. Why?

​ The Basketball Tournament was in NYC.

Fans of hoops attended TBT’s Rucker Park regional final where Americana for Autism, a team playing for autism awareness, defeated HBCUnited, a team of HBCU players, 67-63, to continue its pursuit of winning $1 million. This was the first time in the tournament’s history it played a regional outdoors.

“It was a dope experience, I haven’t played outside since high school. I’m 36,” said Darryl Monroe, who had 11 rebounds and seven assists for Americana for Autism and last played in the Korean Basketball League. “The atmosphere, the outside feel is a different look.”

While playing three rounds of basketball on the Rucker Park concrete was a unique experience, the tournament overall is one-of-a-kind. Here’s what you should know about TBT.

What is TBT?
TBT is a single-elimination basketball tournament where 64 teams compete for a $1 million prize. The March Madness-like tournament was founded by Jonathan Mugar, TBT's CEO and a film producer, in 2014 and is aired on ESPN’s family of networks. This year’s TBT started July 16 and will continue to Aug. 2.

Who plays in the TBT?

Teams are comprised of former NBA players and men’s college players, and for the first time this year, draftable NBA prospects. Some teams are united by a cause such as Americana for Autism and Sideline Cancer. A large portion of the tournament includes alumni squads from college basketball programs such as Syracuse University's Boeheim’s Army, which won last year’s TBT, and Marquette University’s Golden Eagles.

TBT tournament The 64 teams are divided into eight regions with the winner of each region advancing to the final eight in Dayton, Ohio. This year's regions are Omaha, Rucker Park, Xavier, New Mexico, Wichita, Syracuse, West Virginia and Dayton.

'Elam Ending'
Games have three nine-minute quarters but end with the “Elam Ending” in the fourth. Instead of a game concluding with the expiration of the time, there is a target score to reach. The target score is the leading team’s point total plus eight — if the leading team has 60 points then the target score is 68.

The purpose of the Elam Ending, which was founded by Nick Elam, a professor at Ball State University and a former high school athletic director, is to increase the excitement and prevent the dragging nature of intentional fouls and free throws.

Nigel Johnson of Americana for Autism said the "Elam Ending" is his favorite part of the experience

“It gets real intense,” said Johnson, 27, who scored 10 points and last played professionally in Hungary. “In this game, it took us seven minutes to get one point.”

Notable players in TBT The most highly anticipated players in TBT were Amen and Ausar Thompson, both projected top-10 draft picks in the 2023 NBA draft and the first NBA draft-eligible prospects to participate in TBT. They played in the Omaha region with Team Overtime.

The Thompson twins play in the Overtime Elite League, an alternative pathway for high school-aged prospects to advance their basketball careers.

Jimmer Fredette, the No. 10 pick in the 2011 draft, will play for The Money Team in the Dayton Regional. The BYU standout won the John R. Wooden Award in men’s college basketball in 2011 and will play his first game of the TBT on July 24 at 1 p.m. ET.

​ Other former NBA players still competing in the TBT include Tyler Ennis of Boeheim’s Army, Zhaire Smith of Air Raiders and Omari Spellman of Eberlein Drive.