To commemorate Basketball for Life’s flawless 15-0 season, the 2016 Championship banner was unveiled Saturday afternoon at the Drew League’s 44th season opener.
Minutes before tipping off against New Image, Basketball for Life—aka BB4L—stood in awe as their banner was unveiled. The slick white banner decorated with black lettering revealed the 18-man roster of standouts like Baron Davis, Casper Ware II, Stanley Johnson, Terrance Ross, Van Girard and coach Derrick Huey. In bold black print, BB4L is cascaded at the top with a basketball symbol and the unmistakable Nike logo.
In the middle boxed between the roster and BB4L is the spotless 15-0 record. At the very bottom in the very distinct cursive Drew League font is “Drew League Champions.” Hanging with banners celebrating Hank Salvatori and Nike Basketball, BB4L’s banner is something special.
“When you go perfect, you deserve to be honored,” echoed ex-commissioner Dino Smiley after a black cloak draped over the banner was dropped.
BB4L is only the second team in the 44 years of the Drew to finish with a perfect season. Problems did it first in 2007, but perfection comes at a price. After being dubbed the “Untouchables” by the “Voice of the Drew,” George Preciado, there’s been a target on BB4L’s back and it was evident in the team’s season opener.
Opening with a vicious slam from Edgar Garibay, it looked as if BB4L would continue its tenure as the “Untouchables,” but that reality was shattered after consecutive turnovers within the first few minutes and an early lead for New Image.
Going down to the wire, BB4L was able to slide past New Image behind Van Girard’s 20-point, 17-rebound performance. Some were unimpressed with BB4L’s struggle to defeat New Image, a team that failed to reach the playoffs last year. Girard argues that BB4L has been in this position before.
“We’ve been here before since we won and went undefeated last year,” emphasized Girard. “We knew there was going to be a target on our backs this game and the rest of the season. We didn’t just run through last year. It was a tough season.”
Coach Baron Davis was unimpressed with BB4L’s three-point victory. Often seen with looks of aggravation and frustration on the bench while watching his team battle it out on the court, Davis was flustered by the lack of passion and synchronicity showcased by his team.
After talks with players during timeouts and in the locker room, Davis made it clear that his team must be self-motivated if they plan to excel in the Drew.
“I don’t think it’s really up to the coaches to have a player come and want to play the game he supposedly loves and respects,” says Davis.
Nonetheless, a win is a win—whether it’s a slim margin like BB4L’s 57-54 victory over New Image, or blowout style like Ascension’s 48-point rout of M.H.P. Girard has no expectation of this season being as seamless as last years.
“I don’t care if we go undefeated. I don’t care if we lose the first couple of games then win the whole thing. We want another banner up there,” stressed Girard.
While Girard’s optimism on the team is commendable, Davis argues that his team has a lot of kinks to work out if they expect to hang another banner next season.
“I can tell you this: I’m worried. I’d be surprised if we made the playoffs this year,” says Davis.
Luckily for Davis and BB4L, the playoffs are months away and BB4L lives to see another week undefeated. This Saturday, BB4L will face off against a hungry No Schnacks team searching for their first win after falling in gut-wrenching fashion in overtime to Houdini’s Problems.
Girard believes that BB4L is the undeniable team to beat this season. With their banner, staple dog in the snack bar and a nickname alluding to their perfection, BB4L’s stakes are much higher as they continue their quest towards another championship. Saturday will be a test as to whether the “Untouchables” will remain unscathed or be devoured by No Schnacks.
Trinity is a junior at USC. Despite being 5’4” and 20 years old, she is a firm believer that she’ll have a six-inch growth spurt very soon. She’s an avid UCLA and Lyfe Jennings hater. Follow her on Twitter: @Trineezus