Updated: Jul 30
There were many places to be Saturday night in Las Vegas. But for the hundreds in attendance at Cox Pavilion, there was no place they’d rather be.
Not only is Slamball back - it’s better and poised for the spotlight.
The thrilled looks on children’s faces lasted all night long and stayed until the very end for autographs. Their glee from interacting with players was as if this was the sport they had a lifelong affinity for. But this was only the second weekend of Slamball’s return in Las Vegas.
The least fun part of Slamball is the myriad of rules. However, the basics are straightforward enough to comprehend after watching just one game.
Most importantly, dunks/slams are worth three points. Throw-in dunks only count as two. Jumpshots outside the trampoline pads count for three as well, however goaltending is allowed so jumpers are scarce.
On the hardwood area between the trampolines that start at each end’s three-point line, hitting is allowed as long as it’s not a blindside blow. Committing such foul leads to a face-off, which is Slamball’s much more enthusiastic version of a free throw. One defender is tasked with stopping the offensive player making a bee-line to the rim.
A daily slate of games at Slamball is known as a “session.”
“It’s four teams. Two [teams] play, and then another two play. Then you have your main event at the end and that’s your winner for the day,” as described by Slashers handler Tony Crosby.
The first game of the day reeled the crowd in hook, line and sinker. Whether you’re a novice or an aficionado - who doesn’t love a good comeback? The Lava (0-4) were looking for their first win in Slamball play against the Buzzsaw (6-2).
With a 15-point lead at halftime, the Lava were flowing freely. But, that one-sided affair flipped in the second half.
A 20-2 run in the second half, spearheaded by handler Jamal Barnes Jr. led to a fantastic finish. Barnes slammed the emphatic game-winner to bring the fans to their feet.
Lava stopper Faysal Shafaat contributed a season-high 13 stops, but it wasn’t enough to overcome a team-high 18 points from Barnes.
“We play a gritty style of game,” Buzzsaw assistant coach Sandy Fletcher said after game one.
“The other team hasn’t won a game. We waited [for] them to fold.”
When asked about the plan for game two, Fletcher’s answer was simple.
“Same plan every game,” he replied. “Trap [and] denial. We’ve got to finish our dunks. I think if we do that, the other team don’t stand a chance.”
That other team would end up being the Slashers (4-3), who are led by Crosby, the clear fan favorite Saturday night.
It’s easy to see why Crosby, the shortest player in the league at 5-foot-6, is easily one of the most electric. The man with a 52-inch vertical finished with a career-high 27 points with nine dunks.
Slashers coasted to a 67-50 win over the Gryphons, falling to 1-4 on the season.
The Main Event
With the crowd fully warmed up, the main event was set. A rematch of Friday night’s headliner where the Slashers were victorious.
Victory belonged to the Buzzsaw in this one following a strong fourth-quarter that ended the Slashers’ dreams of a perfect weekend, final score 50-41.
Barnes took care of the scoring, pacing the team with 20 points. Meanwhile, stopper Tyquan Scott anchored the defense with 10 stops.
Slashers stopper Amir Smith finished with 17 points, while Crosby had just 12 in the nightcap.
Watching Slamball in-person is like a sports smoothie blended just right.
The foundation is basketball. It borrows the physicality of football, substitutions are on the fly like in hockey, along with a permanent defender manning the rim (i.e. a goalie).
Slamball even features a ‘moshpit’ along the baseline, where fans are encouraged to bang the clear panels to add excitement.
Arena anthems such as “Jump Around” and “Swag Surfin’” rang true all night long. Kids watched with popcorn and left with autographs. Even the athletes are overjoyed with the progress thus far.
“It’s crazy to be a part of it,” Crosby said. “To finally bring Slamball back. It’s going crazy online, in-person, everywhere. So the future’s bright.”
With ESPN camera crews broadcasting the action, Slamball has the opportunity to establish itself as a household name by the conclusion of this season.
The energy in Cox Pavilion on the campus of UNLV mixed with overjoyed youth was a glimpse of what Slamball could be for years to come.
For now, let’s enjoy this niche return-to-form for a sport that we’re lucky to have in our own backyard.