America’s primary grassroots basketball program is the AAU (Amateur Athletic Union). It was founded in 1888 and gained traction over the years. Throughout its rich history, basketball fans were treated to a premier brand of high school basketball as most of these teams feature future NBA stars in their rosters. What are the best AAU basketball teams that ever played? Read on to find out.
What is the Purpose of AAU Basketball?
As mentioned, the AAU is a grassroots basketball program that mainly caters to high school basketball players. The primary goal is to improve these young players’ skills. The program allows the youngsters to carry out the skills they have learned and use them against top competition in their age brackets.
Of course, just because the program has a goal in place doesn’t mean it can actually fulfill it all the time. AAU basketball has taken much flak from legit NBA personalities such as Steve Kerr and Kobe Bryant. Kerr coached his son’s AAU team for three years and lamented how teams were forced to play up to four games in a day. Bryant also criticized how AAU focuses on fancy stuff while neglecting basketball fundamentals.
What NBA Players Played AAU?
Almost all American-born NBA players have taken part in AAU basketball, so this list is not exhaustive at all. Here are some of the most notable AAU basketball alumni:
- Kobe Bryant (New Jersey Patterson)
- Kevin Love (So-Cal All-Stars)
- LeBron James (Oakland Soldiers)
- Kevin Garnett (Farragut Academy)
- Kevin Durant (DC Blue Devils)
- Trae Young (Mokan Elite)
- Dwyane Wade (Illinois Warriors)
- Paul George (Pump N’ Run)
- Kawhi Leonard (Team Eleate)
- DeMarcus Cousins (Birmingham Storm)
- Ja Morant (SC Raptors)
- John Collins (Florida Flash)
- Bam Adebayo (Boo Williams)
- Victor Oladipo (Team Takeover)
- Elton Brand (Riverside Church)
- Ron Artest (Riverside Church)
- Greg Oden (Indy Heat Gym Rats)
- De’Aaron Fox (Houston Hoops)
- Julius Randle (Texas Titans)
- Kyle Kuzma (Dorian’s Pride)
- Anthony Davis (MeanStreets)
- Kyrie Irving (NJ Roadrunners)
- Aaron Gordon (Oakland Soldiers)
- Lonzo Ball (Big Ballers)
- Dwight Howard (Atlanta Celtics)
- Damian Lillard (Oakland Rebels)
- Darius Garland (St. Louis Eagles)
- Marcus Smart (Texas Assault)
- LaMelo Ball (Big Ballers)
- Josh Smith (Atlanta Celtics)
- Zion Williamson (SC Supreme)
- Kyle Lowry (Playaz Club)
- John Wall (D-One Sports)
- DeMar DeRozan (Belmont Shore)
- Chris Paul (Kappa Magic)
- Devin Booker (Alabama Challenge)
- DeAndre Ayton (California Supreme)
- Al Horford (Michigan Mustangs)
- Steph Curry (Charlotte Stars)
- Klay Thompson (Pump N Run)
- Draymond Green (The Family Detroit)
- Russell Westbrook (LA Stars)
- Karl-Anthony Towns (Sports U)
- D’Angelo Russell (E1T1 United)
What are the Best AAU Tournaments?
17U Super Showcase
The 17U Super Showcase is a 164-team tournament held in Lake Buenavista. What makes this tournament great is the fact that it’s invite-only and is meant to display the talents of the most NBA-ready prospects more than anything.
Jr. Boys Division I National Championship
Still hosted at Lake Buenavista, Florida, this tournament is the largest National Championship event. It features 164 teams and runs for a whole week before going into the championship bracket.
13U National Championship
The 13U National Championship is the first national championship tournament for AUU boys. The event features 112 teams, and the games are played in various venues throughout Memphis.
16U Super Showcase
This tournament is pretty similar to the 17U Super Showcase except for the age requirements and participating teams. The 16U Showcase only features 100 invite-only teams and primarily displays the youngsters’ skills for possible Division I scholarships at least two years down the road.
11 Best AAU Basketball Teams All Time
1. Patterson New Jersey (1994)
Future NBA players: Kobe Bryant, Tim Thomas, Vince Carter, RIp Hamilton
It’s hard to imagine that a team with these many future NBA players could lose. Though there aren’t any official records compiled by the 1994 Patterson New Jersey team, they bagged two national AAU championships. That pretty much cemented their place in AAU lore forever. This team is truly one of the best AAU basketball teams all time.
2. So-Cal All-Stars (2005-06)
Future NBA players: Kevin Love, Brandon Jennings
This team only lost twice in two years and could have been undefeated in that time frame had Kevin Love suited up. They won just about every tournament they were in back in 2006, including beating teams that featured Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans, and OJ Mayo.
3. Spiece Indy Heat (2004)
Future NBA players: Greg Oden, Mike Conley, Daequan Cook, Jeff Teague, Eric Gordon, Josh McRoberts
When all is said and done, the NBA players from this team may not make it to the Hall of Fame, but imagine the damage they did in the circuit back then. They only lost a total of four times in two summers.
4. Riverside Church NYC (1996)
Future NBA players: Elton Brand, Ron Artest, Lamar Odom, Erick Barkley
Can you imagine playing against a young Ron Artest? How about a 69-1 record in the summer of 96? That’s how good this team was and possibly the best offensive front line in the history of AAU basketball. The 96 version of Riverside Church was one of the best AAU basketball teams in New York.
5. Oakland Soldiers (2002)
Future NBA players: LeBron James, Kendrick Perkins, Leon Powe
Any team that has LeBron James in it would have been pretty good. The trio of James, Perkins, and Powe won every major AAU tournament they played together. Up until this day, people in the Bay Area are still talking about how a kid from Ohio put on a show on the West Coast all summer long.
6. Atlanta Celtics (2003)
Future NBA players: Dwight Howard, Josh Smith, Randolph Morris, Javaris Crittenton, Brandon Rush
If Elton Brand and Lamar Odom formed possibly the best offensive frontcourt in AAU, D12 and J-Smoove might be as lethal on the other side of the floor. Nobody is going to score inside with those two in there. True enough, they won all but one of their games by at least 20 points.
7. Friends of Hoop Seattle (2005)
Future NBA players: Spencer Hawes, Jon Brockman, Martell Webster, Isaiah Thomas
Nobody on this team became an NBA All-Star except for Isaiah Thomas, but Hawes was actually one of the best high school players in his time. In fact, when he and Kevin Durant faced off in an AAU tournament, Hawes dominated KD by recording 28 and 12 while KD got held to 12 and five.
8. Mokan Elite (2016)
Future NBA players: Trae Young, Michael Porter, Jr.
Mokan Elite is currently in the top 20 of the AAU basketball rankings, but possibly the best team they ever fielded was in 2016. Young and MPJ won the Peach Jam tournament over Mo Bamba’s PSA Cardinals.
9. All-Ohio Red (2009)
Future NBA players; Jared Sullinger, Aaron Craft, Adreian Payne
As its name suggests, the team features the best high school players from Ohio and they did not disappoint. They only had nine losses in a three-year span while winning 201 games.
10. Oakland Soldiers (2012)
Future NBA players: Aaron Gordon, Stanley Johnson, Jabari Bird
With Gordon and Johnson in there, this version of the Soldiers was long and athletic. They lost three games in the EBYL but went 8-0 at the 2012 Peach Jam beating a bunch of pretty good teams in their run.
11. DC Assault (1998)
Future NBA players: Dermarr Johnson, Keith Bogans, Rodney White, James White
If you had a guy nicknamed “Flight” (James White) and a guy who’s a high-flying act himself (Johnson), this team was one of the most exciting ones in AAU history.
Wrapping Things Up: What are the Best AAU Basketball Teams?
AAU basketball is foremost in America’s grassroots basketball program. It has been around basically since the sport’s inception and became the breeding ground for future NBA pros. Although it has received a decent amount of flak for various reasons, the fact remains that AAU basketball is here to stay.
With that being said, what are the best AAU basketball teams ever assembled? The one that tops this list is the 1994 version of Patterson New Jersey. It was said that Kobe Bryant ran point guard for the team while Vince Carter and Rip Hamilton played the wings. Tim Thomas was a man amongst boys, so it’s not a surprise that they won two AAU national titles. Rounding out the top 5 is the 2002 Oakland Soldiers, 1996 Riverside Church, 2004 Spiece Indy Heat, and the 2006 So-Cal All-Stars.
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