LITTLE ITALY — Chicago’s top basketball talent — from the college ranks to overseas pros to the NBA — are coming together this month to play for bragging rights to the city.
The Dreamville Chi-League pro-am opened last weekend and will have the final rounds of its tournament over the next two weekends at Credit 1 Arena, the former UIC Pavilion at 525 S. Racine Ave.
The semi-finals start 12:15 p.m. Saturday. The finals start 1 p.m. Aug. 27. Games will rotate throughout the day between men’s and women’s brackets. Tickets are free.
The league has attracted NBA pros Jabari Parker, Talen Horton-Tucker, Bobby Portis and Javonte Green of the Chicago Bulls.
Jobba Maxey, lead organizer of the event, brought back the storied summer tournament last year after a four-year hiatus with the help of Dreamville, the record label started by J. Cole. As a kid, Maxey would watch the games courtside as Michael Jordan, Isiah Thomas and Allen Iverson pulled up to pay their respects to Chicago.
“The purpose of the pro-am is not to get only these pro guys out to play; it’s for the younger generation who can’t afford to go watch the Bulls and these NBA players right now,” Maxey said. “This is for the love of the game.”
The league is at Credit 1 Arena this year after Chicago State hosted last year. Maxey said he wanted a more central venue so people from all over Chicago can enjoy the show, which he runs like a real NBA game. This opening weekend saw 600 more people than last year’s, Maxey said.
“The energy in the gym is off the chain. It’s all been very encouraging,” Maxey said. “Basketball and music are the universal languages of Chicago.”
The league has also partnered with the YMCA to host clinics for local youth ahead of the pro-am games. A panel about careers in sports is 10 a.m.-noon Saturday at Credit 1 Arena. A basketball clinic for kids 8-13 years old is 10 a.m.-noon Aug. 27. Registration is available here.
The beauty of a pro-am is you never know who might show up, Maxey said. He’s encouraging the Chicago Bulls to come out and play.
“Michael Jordan was the one to establish the Bulls coming out to play in the summertime,” Maxey said. “So we hope they come out and get a taste of this Chicago culture. I’m going to lay it all out for them.”
Listen to the Block Club Chicago podcast: