During the final week of June, Native American basketball players from across North America, including many from northeastern Arizona, converged on the Valley for one of the largest amateur sporting events of its kind.
The 17th Annual Native American Basketball Invitational (NABI) featured 128 teams from across the United States and Canada that took part in boys and girls tournaments. After pool play on June 24-26, teams were seeded in Gold or Silver, 32-team brackets for single-elimination competition toward a national championship.
Early-round games were played in Maricopa and Bapchule. National-title games were held at Talking Stick Resort Arena, home of the Phoenix Suns, in downtown Phoenix on Saturday, June 29.
In the boys division, Arizona’s own FMD (Yavapai affiliation) defeated Sweat Rocks of Kansas (Northern Cheyenne/Navajo) in the final for the Gold Bracket championship. Apache Outkast won a first-round game in the gold bracket, against NAZ Elite (Navajo, Oglala Sioux, Hopi and Kiowa), an Arizona team, on Thursday, June 27, then fell to Northern Elite (Navajo), also an Arizona team, in the second round later on Thursday.
In the Boys Silver Division, Red Storm, a team from California (intertribal), defeated Three Nations (Tohono O’odham, Navajo, Gila River) of Arizona for the national title.
In the girls division, New Mexico’s N.M. Elite (San Felipe Pueblo, Cochiti Pueblo, Laguna Pueblo, Sioux, Navajo, Samoan) defeated Unity (Tulalip, Yakima, Spokane, Lummi, Navajo), a team from Washington state, for the Gold Division national championship.
Florida’s Shooting Stars (Comanche, Muskogee, Creek, Seminole, Winnebago) defeated Pink Thunder (Navajo), from New Mexico, for the Silver Division championship. Pink Thunder eliminated the White Mountain Apache Tribe Rez Girls in the quarterfinal round and the MS Rainmakers (Choctaw) from Mississippi in the semifinals to get to the title game.
The NABI Foundation is a national foundation committed to supporting Native American youth by implementing programs that encourage higher education, sports, health & wellness and community building.
Based on acknowledgement of Native American youth’s talent and love for the game, NABI Founders recognized basketball was a perfect tool to bring Native youth to a week-long program. A week-long program comprised of opportunities to inspire and create scholarship opportunities resulting in more youth earning his/her college degree. Because of this, Founder’s Mark West of the Phoenix Suns, Scott Podleski (late) of the Arizona Rattlers, and GinaMarie Scarpa of the A.C. Green Youth Foundation, embarked on a journey to launch the NABI Foundation in 2002. A journey that would prosper due to their numerous resources and years of experience in the sport and not-for-profit arena, as well as endorsement and support from Jerry Colangelo. Fittingly, it has become a nationally recognized Foundation, providing educational programs for Native American high school students.
The NABI Tournament has become the largest all Native American Basketball Invitationals. Most importantly, it has awarded more than $250,000 in scholarship funds, as it is an organization about more than basketball, yet an educational platform that provides Native American youth a vehicle to succeed beyond the court.