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I'm probably in the minority as someone who was an avid Slamball viewer. Most people who have heard of Slamball think of it as only basketball with a trampoline, but it's much more than that. Slamball emphasizes speed, precision, and power into one insanely entertaining 20-minute event. While the sport couldn't capitalize on its initial popularity in the early 2000s, it would thrive if it was brought back today.
First, let's discuss the rules of Slamball. Just like basketball, you have to dribble on the hardwood floor and shots are worth either two or three points depending on the distance, but that's basically where the similarity ends. A slam dunk is worth three points, which is how a majority of the scoring is done. The game is split into four 5-minute quarters and it's played in a 4-on-4 format. Substitutions work in a similar manner to hockey, where it is unlimited and can take place during play.
There are three positions in Slamball; Handler, Gunner, and Stopper. The handler is the primary ball handler on the team, kind of like a point guard. It is his job to run the offense and set up the gunners. The gunners are the primary scorers that attack the basket, similar to a wing in hockey. The stopper is the heart of the defense, his job is to block the gunners and he only goes on offense when needed. Goaltending is legal in Slamball as long as the shot is within the trampoline area.
The main difference in Slamball is the contact. You're allowed to hit your opponent as long as they're not on the trampoline. This makes for a high-intensity game but doesn't risk the catastrophic injury that can occur if a player were to be knocked off a trampoline.
Even though it's full contact, there are still fouls in Slamball, but even fouls in Slamball are exciting. Instead of taking foul shots they have a "face-off." The player who has committed the foul goes to the baseline of the lower trampolines while the player who got fouled goes to mid-court. The player on offense charges towards the hoop and the defensive player tries to stop it.
So those are the basic rules of the game, but the question remains, why did the league fail? Slamball started out incredibly popular in LA, where it gained attention from the streetballers there. Within the first year, 400 people had submitted applications to be potential players. After the open tryouts, the top 60 players were assembled for the first Slamball combine.
After the second season, the creator of Slamball, Mason Gordon, had a disagreement with his business partner. His partner wanted to turn Slamball into wrestling, with costumes, staged drama, and predetermined outcomes. The league was put on hold as Gordon went through his legal battle to retain control of Slamball. They revamped in 2008 but have not played a season in America since, although they have resurfaced in China.
Slamball had big names attached to it such as the Commissioner Pat Croce, who was the President of the 76ers from 96-01. It featured coaches Kenny Anderson, John Starks, Raghib Ismail, and Ken Carter (of Coach Carter). The exciting pace of the sport mixed with these big names should've put Slamball on the map.
As mentioned, the legal battle that Mason Gordon went through played a big part in slowing down the progress of the league, but a bigger issue was airing it on TV. It aired on ESPN, CBS, Versus, and Cartoon Network. The lack of a uniform schedule made it difficult for casual fans to watch Slamball regularly. With the popularity of streaming services, Slamball could develop a real presence if it returned and utilized YouTube live to stream their games on a consistent schedule. Another thing that has changed since Slamball was on is the popularity of social media. Slamball clips on Instagram or Snapchat would go viral constantly and help keep that younger audience that Slamball needs to survive.
People still remember Slamball ten years later and that built-in audience would help the sport take off if it were to come back. We need more insane plays like these, and you can only find them in Slamball.