NEW YORK – As the mecca of basketball, or the center of sports culture, New York City is mostly nostalgic.
A reminder was recently sent from SHOWTIME, which is airing a documentary this summer about New York City point guards who attained legendary status before entering college or turning pro.
Kenny Anderson, Kenny Smith, Pearl Washington, Rod Strickland, Mark Jackson, Nate Archibald, Stephon Marbury and Good Shamgood — all familiar names that, if they appeared today, would likely be sent elsewhere given the choices within the five boroughs.
Out-of-state prep schools, for example, have snatched the crown of Gibson, Obi Tobin, Joachim Noah, Kofi Cockburn, and Cole Anthony. The city championship is not what it used to be.
Now, two New York entrepreneurs, backed by Carmelo Anthony, have dedicated big ideas and big money to redirecting this trend. Griffin Taylor and Jared Efron plan to launch The Program, a wired academy to compete with the likes of Oak Hill, Monteverde and IMG.
“What I want to do, and what we want to do, is take back the narrative that New York City is a place for the elite in terms of producing top-tier basketball talent and culture,” Taylor told the New York Daily News.
How will this work?
According to Taylor, they have raised about $2.5 million for the project – or half of their goal – and plan to open next year with a facility in Williamsburg or Long Island City.
Their proposal is complex but the goal is to create a team of New York’s most talented players, scattering national recruits, and turning basketball development into a primary focus. The program will also work with local schools to offer online courses, thus meeting NCAA requirements, and paying for home players.
But the gym is the draw.
“The main reason New York fell is because there aren’t many great gyms in the city because rents are so expensive and used to other things,” Griffin said. “We want a facility where children know they have 24-hour access to basketball and are taught by the best teachers.”
Sign Carmelo Anthony, J.J. Redick, and Kenny Smith as strategic advisors. Book Richardson, a former Arizona assistant coach and director of operations for New York Gauchos, is the head coach.
They started with camp in the Hamptons this weekend, and Cole Anthony and Knicks guard Miles McBride are expected to attend.
The concept of “The Program” wasn’t necessarily new to New York, but rather reimagined to fit the 2022 basketball scene. As the parks department was cutting its budget in the ’80s and ’90s, millionaire Luis D’Almeida built Gaucho’s Gym in the South Bronx and built the AAU Dynasty. Likewise, wealthy corporate lawyer Ernie Lorch has turned the Riverside Hooks family into a powerhouse.
Efron, nephew of powerful banker Blair Efron, brings financial ties to the “Program.” Taylor, the program’s CEO, has a background in basketball after organizing championship teams at Rucker Park, Dyckman, and Gersh.
Their idea arose about a decade ago, when Efron and Taylor were too young and inexperienced to put together such a project. Then former Jewish League opponents reconnected at last summer’s wedding and picked a conversation they believed would re-establish basketball glory in New York City.
“The same market hole that was there 10 years ago, is there today,” Griffin said. “Someone is going to bring basketball back to New York City again because it’s so meaningful to the sport, and it has so much history and culture, so why not do it? You always have to dream big in life.”