Next week is the 36th annual Black Invitational Basketball Tournament in Halifax, Nova Scotia, starting May 14.
By far, this is the most amazing basketball tournament you’ve never heard of.
It’s run by the Provincial Black Basketball Association — the most amazing basketball organization you’ve never heard of … yet.
How do I know?
Because last year it was my honor to be invited by the P.B.B.A. to attend their 35th annual tournament so I could deliver the keynote address at their formal dinner and dance that accompanies the event — and catch some of the games.
Some of you may remember that my visit there was covered by the Halifax Chronicle Herald.
My first reaction was that I couldn’t believe the jaw-dropping talent. Their Slam Dunk Contest alone would make your head spin. (As the keynote speaker I got to be one of the judges!)
Check out the winning dunk (after a failed first try) by a superb baller nicknamed “Dipp”:
The most amazing thing about this dunk isn’t the dunk but the audience. Look at all these black people! They goin’ craaazy! And do it always be this crowded? Yes!
To get to the final, Dipp’s dunk-off and the crowd reaction the night before was just as gorgeous:
Remember, this is Nova Scotia, y’all!
Claude Johnson with two P.B.B.A. executive board members,
Dwight Hampden (l.) and Cecil Wright (r.).
First, have you ever even heard of Nova Scotia? (It’s in Canada, in its own province, East of Maine.)
All I can tell you is that it’s one of the most breathtaking places on earth. Halifax itself is a sight for soar eyes, a diamond hidden in the mist, a romantic treasure.
Nova Scotia has a surprising amount of black history.
Note that black Canadians call themselves African Americans. If you thought it was just us United States brothers up in here, you were wrong!
Nova Scotia has the largest per capita population of African Americans in all of Canada!
Why? Because it was the last stop on the Underground Railroad.
So many black folks ended up in Nova Scotia that they even created an all-black hockey league! That league, its teams , and their history are finally getting the attention they deserve — thanks to a fascinating new book called Black Ice, and ESPN’s coverage of the story.
The black community in Halifax is stunning. They’re unbelievably warm, gracious, humble, accepting, and embracing.
They look the same and dress the same (several cats were wearing Black Fives sneakers, for real!) and they even ball the same … but that’s where many of the comparisons stop.
I’m generalizing, of course, but I noticed a few things.
They’re punctual. They show up on time and events start on time. They love and respect each other and one another. Their aura and disposition are radiant and positive.
There isn’t the sense of anger, bitterness, self-poison, materialistic hunger, cynicism, and “gotta get mine” desperation that we often see down here in the United States — even though they’ve endured heavy doses of racial injustice and have plenty to be enraged about.
Not surprisingly, they’re very race conscious, but without being racist. For example, tournament policy requires that only all-black teams, including coaching staffs, can be invited to compete. (It’s a government sanctioned event, which tells you something.)
Black Nova Scotians are almost too humble, seemingly unaware of what they’re sitting on … what they really have … or what they’re capable of doing. They’re like a beautiful girl who doesn’t know (or think) she’s beautiful.
And that’s what makes the black Nova Scotia experience so charming.
By the way, I made many new friends on my visit up there last year, and they’ll be friends for life — indicative of the connection and bond we shared in a short amount of time. It was like meeting my long lost cousins. Literally, I suspect.
Now, the N.B.A.’s D-League is looking at Halifax as a possible expansion site. But they don’t seem to have any idea, because they apparently don’t even know about the P.B.B.A.’s annual tournament!
However, now you do!
This tournament and the many talented Halifax ballers are going to get discovered soon, big time.
Meanwhile, you can sneak up there next week (or next year) and make the whole trip into a family basketball and sightseeing vacation.