PHOENIX — Basketball-loving teens from Native American tribal nations are competing in Phoenix all this week, and the winning teams will get tickets to see the Phoenix Suns play in the NBA Finals.
Every summer the Native American Basketball Invitational brings dozens of teams to Phoenix for a week-long tournament. This year 1,300 players are attending, and more than 400 games are scheduled.
"It just makes it really big," said Preston Olney, a point guard from Flagstaff. "All the Natives from all around the country come. They come and play and compete and have fun."
"Our kids have their own style," explains NABI President and CEO GinaMarie Scarpa. "It's like a run-and-gun," she said, describing the fast, back-and-forth action that's characteristic of many of the teams.
"They just, they wanted their arena back, so we had to give it to them," Scarpa said.
At first, she said the change to playing their championships in a high school gym was disappointing. However, a NABI donor stepped up to give the winners an extra special prize, tickets to see Game 5 in person.
About 30 people from the winning boys' and girls' teams will experience the Phoenix Suns Arena in a way they never imagined.
"That's our goal to get to the championship and win the tournament, so we watch the game in person," Olney said.
Olney said his favorite Suns player is Chris Paul because he's a point guard, too.
NABI also provides a college and career fair and a scholarship contest for participating athletes.