For the very first year, the 26-year old Coady Roundball Classic (CRC) is being held in Las Vegas instead of its original home in Chicago. And the events aren’t limited to just the CRC on April 23. From the 21st to the 23rd, a variety of events are available on a menu basis, like the NGBA Skills Challenge and the 30+ 3on3 Hoop it Up, both on the 22nd. All of this, of course is being held by the National Gay Basketball Association (NGBA) which will also conduct its annual membership meeting at the Vegas gathering.

And then, taking advantage of the Las Vegas attractions, attendees can choose to take a helicopter night flight over the Vegas strip on the 21st or, on the 22nd do a Ride-Along at the Richard Petty Speedway or hang on for dear life at the Zipline Boot Canyon. All-in-all, it’s a great way incorporate a fun visit to Vegas with all its amenities with a signature national gay sporting event like the CRC.

Although not as large as some of the other national and international gay sports organizations, the NGBA is committed to growing the sport of basketball by promoting and supporting LGBT leagues, league formation and tournaments held in safe and supportive environments. Founded in 2004, the NGBA’s mission was to be able to speak with one voice within the larger LGBT sports community. And by the next year it was incorporated and granted 501(c)(3) non-profit status in order to grow the game of basketball to LGBT players across the U.S. and the world.

But if the NGBA is only over a decade old, you may wonder how is it that the Coady Roundball Classic is celebrating its 26th birthday this year. I had an opportunity to speak with Mark Chambers, founder and president of the NGBA who lives in Long Beach, California. He explained that in the Los Angeles area in 1989 there were no organized basketball leagues, just guys who had formed teams to play against one another. But when the 1990 Gay Games were held in Vancouver, Mark formed the Lambda Basketball League in Los Angeles so they could compete. After running Lambda for 20 years, Mark turned it over to Jason Jaramillo so he could form the NGBA.

Also in 1990, Sam Coady from Chicago ran a gay basketball tournament called the Chicago Hoops Classic (sometimes called the Windy City Classic) and the L.A. players and those from other areas went to Chicago to play in what was the only annual large gay basketball tournament. In 2006 the tournament was renamed the Coady Roundball Classic to honor Sam who had run it for its first 13 years (happily, Sam is still alive).

Now ending its 25-year run in Chicago, this year’s CRC in Las Vegas will be played at the Tarkanian Gymnasium. From 12 teams, the tournament has grown to between 30-40 teams with play that’s intensely competitive. And of course the wonderful camaraderie that’s part of a tournament like the CRC as well as the parties and events make this a great weekend for gay athletes, officials and fans.

For those who don’t have a local team and those who want to test themselves, there is also the NGBA Skills Challenge that gives players the opportunity to display their skill for all to see. Open to everyone in each division, the number of players will be limited based on gym time to do the following.

* Teams made up of 3 players will compete in the Top Gun Shootout
* Teams comprised of 3 players will compete in the skills challenge
* The 3-point shot contest. Individuals
* Free-Throw shooting
* Individual Skills Contest

And if you’d like to start a gay basketball team in your area, contact the for help. In addition to organizing the NGBA tournament schedule up to two years in advance, it also helps to form and promote new market basketball leagues and pickup games. It also provides hands-on support to tournament directors and organizers, ensuring that tournament cost participation is low and the best hotel rates are negotiated.

Photo by National Gay Basketball Association (NGBA)