The City of Palms Classic Basketball Tournament should be written about next November or December when you might make plans to attend. But I want to write while it is fresh in my mind. Just mark your calendars.
For forty-five years, some of the best high school basketball teams in the United States and Canada have made their way to Fort Myers, Florida just before Christmas to play in a six-day basketball tournament. They come to compete against the very best.
At the behest of a friend, I attended my first City of Palms game in 2012. Among many outstanding players was the ESPN number one ranked player at the time, Canadian Andrew Wiggins, who became the number one National Basketball Association draft in 2014. He now plays for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
I painted Wiggin’s portrait although I learned later I could not sell it because I did not have his permission in advance. This past year I decided to give it away as I am doing with other paintings. [You can learn more about my paintings by writing to RalieTravels@gmail.com.]
Over the years, 99 players in the tournament went on to play in the NBA and currently one out of every 8 NBA players played one or more years at the City of Palms.
Many organizations besides ESPN such as Rivals, Scout, HoopScoop and others attempt to measure the skills of sports figures. Thirty-four ranked players participated in 2017’s tournament. Perhaps it is no surprise famous college coaches and media celebrities can be found in the audience.
I am not a great sports fan. I rarely attend live sports events and do not attend all the games at the City of Palms. But I enjoy the games I do see. Seats are readily available during the day. It was necessary to arrive early only in the evenings when top ranked teams were playing. Out of the thirty-five games this time, seven were won by two points or fewer. In the final championship game, USA Today‘s top ranked Memphis East High School coached by former NBA star “Penny” Hardaway was upset by University School, Fort Lauderdale.In 2017, $260 would buy a ticket for all thirty-five games in the first two rows. A general admission ticket bought at the window would allow one to see all the games that day for only $15, going and coming as you please. [The last two days are $20.] Plus, when you are outside, you get to enjoy fabulous Florida weather — it was in the low 80s and sunny every day this year.
Click on photos to enlarge.