Since the fall of 2014, the one-on-one basketball tournament Fightball has been held four times. It’s a new take on an old game, merging sport and nightlife. While there is no condoned fighting, the eight-minute games have limited foul rules. Each game consists of four-minute halves with an eight-second shot clock. For the players, the game is a mix of endurance and skill. For the audience, there’s a mix of spectacle, glamour, and drama. Fightball gets marketed as “the world’s most intense one-on-one basketball competition.” The competitors in last Thursday night’s tournament, held at SIR Stage 37 Studios in Midtown Manhattan, were playing for a $100,000 grand prize.
Fightball’s cofounders, Jonas Hallberg and Liron Reznik, both have backgrounds in advertising and publicity, which is apparent in the way they converted the multipurpose venue. Everything inside the event space was white and black: the court, the uniforms, the branding materials. During halftime and in between games, DJ Clark Kent was the main attraction. Pusha T was the night’s surprise performer, and celebrities Victor Cruz, Mason Betha (Ma$e), and Chanel Iman watched the games from courtside seats. It felt like a party.
The heavily branded environment might seem a little bizarre for an American sports culture that wants to believe in its own purity. But on second look, it’s harder to see the distance between Fightball and our more popular leagues. On third look, it might just be easier to take in the memorable experience.
(All photographs by Naima Green.)