Now having spent almost a decade working for the Birmingham Bullets back in the day, I knew that any new franchise would have their work cut out. The Bullets were one of the greatest names in British Basketball and under the control of Harry Wrubleski, the team would win two Championships.
Some of the greatest names in British Basketball would grace the floors of the NIA, NEC, The Aston Villa Leisure Centre and other venues in the Birmingham area.
There were names like Billy Singleton, Nigel Lloyd, Trevor Gordon, Stedroy Baker, Tony Simms, Clive Allen and perhaps the greatest of them all, in my opinion, Tony Dorsey.
The Bullets played some truly awesome basketball but that was only part of the key to their success.
Off the floor they were one of the most successful franchises ever in British Basketball. Harry and his team knew how to get the best out of Birmingham’s Business community, and how to get bums on seats.
The team played regularly to over 10,000 people at what were the best two venues in the country at the time. Harry knew how to put on a show and when all the elements came together it truly was a joy to be a part of.
Some weeks ago I got a message from Tony Simms telling me that the new Birmingham team were playing their first home game on the 12th of October and that they wanted to invite some of the people who had been involved with Birmingham Basketball over the years, to a VIP event to celebrate the launch of the new team.
I was delighted to receive the invite.
So, as was usual when I commentated for the team, I left Manchester good and early and headed for Birmingham.
I do not remember ever having been to anything at the North Solihull Sports Centre, and was pleasantly surprised when I arrived to find a beautiful arena with seating down one side and the table officials on the opposite side of the floor. The venue was clean and well presented and everything was set for the first home game of the Birmingham Knights.
And what a night it was!
It was a real joy to meet up with so many of the legendary Birmingham Bullets players who had also been invited to the VIP event. At half time, Nigel Lloyd, Stedroy Baker and Clive Allen were introduced to the crowd to rapturous applause. It was also wonderful to see many faces, some of whom, I had not seen for twenty years.
The Birmingham Knights had had a horrible start to life in the BBL.
The fixtures computer had conspired to hand them a first game against the triple winning Leicester Riders in Leicester. They were handed a lesson that Head Coach Paul Douglas and his team were not going to forget for a long time. The Riders handed the Knights a 90-56 whupping.
Mind you, the Sharks, tonight’s opponents, would only manage to score 40 points in their visit to the Riders.
Game two was again on the road as the team headed to Sport Central in Newcastle to face one of the most successful teams ever in British Basketball – The Newcastle Eagles – where it was another baptism of fire.
The Knights would go down 129-70.
Next up it would be the Sheffield Sharks who would be coming to Birmingham to face the Knights on their home court for the Knights first home game of the new season.
Now I should explain something about my love for Sport. I tell people this and they don’t believe me.
At most of the sporting events I attend, or see on television, I don’t care who wins. What I want to see is great entertainment.
And that is what we had last Saturday night.
The Sharks had had an excellent start to the new season and must have arrived thinking this could be an easy two points.
They were wrong.
Coach Douglas had got his guys up for this. He knew what he wanted them to do and they went out and did it. There were some wonderful plays and the full house at North Solihull were loving every minute of it.
One of my favourites from the Knights was a line up on the right side of the paint with Martyn Gayle popping out for a wide open three. It was text book!
Every player stepped up to the plate and delivered for the coach, none more than Brent Benson. I had not seen or heard anything about the Knights and was in for a wonderful surprise. Benson played almost 37 of the 40 minutes and would finish the game with an astonishing 45 points and 7 assists.
He went 7 for 13 from the arc and 16 for 27 from the field. He was unstoppable! Time and Time again, Atiba Lyons switched defenders on him but it made no difference. Some of his shots were simply amazing and he lit up the crowd and the event.
He was well supported by 18 points from veteran Martyn Gayle and 14 from Josh Rolls-Tyson.
If Benson continues to play like this he is going to go down as one of the greats in the legend of Birmingham Basketball.
For the Sharks, who got out of jail in this one, it would be Simmons who led with 24, but it was Mike Tuck with 17 and Patrick Horstmann with 14 who kept them in the game.
The final score was 95 to the home team and 102 to the Sharks. The home team led the game 91-89 on a massive triple from Benson with a couple of minutes to go. But in the end the Sharks would win on the road and move to 4 and 1. The Knights are still looking for their first win.
The thing that will haunt Coach Douglas is their free throw shooting down the stretch. The would end up shooting just 50% from the line going 13 for 26. The Sharks on the other hand went 23 for 25 – 92%.
This was the difference in the game.
That and a crazy Fixtures computer which has given the BBL new boys an absolute horror list of opponents to start their season.
Unfortunately it does not get any easier for the Knights as the next two visitors to North Solihull are the Plymouth Raiders in the BBL Cup on the 19th of October and the unbeaten Worcester Wolves in the League the next day…OUCH!
There were a couple of poignant moments for me during the evening. None of which spoilt the game. The little bother which saw Mike Gayle and Nick Lewis thrown out of the game was something we could have done without on this special night. The tweet from someone(who should know better) telling me that I should not be in the VIP area but that I should have been sitting with the Sharks fans was truly hurtful. I won’t hold my breath for an apology. (See email regarding this below. Name has been withheld)
But for me the only thing missing on this spectacular night was an individual by the name of Sheila Hopkins. Those who know Birmingham Basketball will know that Sheila was a stalwart of the game in the West Midlands.
She passed away some years ago but somehow I felt that she was looking down on the Knights from somewhere up there with one of those beautiful smiles on her face.
BBL Basketball is back in Birmingham and that feels … SO GOOD!
Photos – Calvin Coull, unless otherwise stated
Photo – Sheila Hopkins – Origin Unknown
This is from BBL and Bullets Legend Nigel Lloyd
For the first time this season I saw a really enjoyable game as a fan of basketball. As a coach sometimes you get caught up with the defence and strategies. The Birmingham Knights with the support of a great crowd atmosphere and a Sharks team willing to compete and go after each other offensively gave us a great show. The game had plenty of action and lots of scoring. We the guys that use to play in Birmingham for the Bullets really enjoyed the game.
This is from BBL and Bullets Legend Clive Allen
” People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did,
but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
I just thought it was so great to have basketball back in Birmingham and seeing the smiles on peoples faces at the basketball game. This is a great step in the right direction for everyone who really loves Basketball. We need everyone in Birmingham to get behind the organization, to make this more than just a flash in the pan.
People at the game, made me feel like it was all worth it…Go Knights.
This is from the person who sent me the tweet during the game.
I have just read your wonderful write up of the Birmingham game.
As a relative newcomer to the great game, I was unaware of your association with Birmingham. I most sincerely apologise for my remark which was completely intended to be light-hearted.
Apologies once again.
Yours in sport
MORE PHOTOS FROM A TRULY AWESOME NIGHT
First published 14/10/2013
Be the first to write a comment.