Basketball tournaments exist in practically every corner of the world. In the United States, aside from the NBA, WNBA, and NCAA basketball, one very popular basketball tournament is the TBT. What is TBT Basketball?
To put it simply, TBT is an open basketball tournament played every summer in the United States. It was founded by Jonathan Mugar in 2014. Normally, TBT accepts 64 teams in the fold, but the field was reduced to 24 in 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
What Does TBT Mean in Basketball?
TBT is an abbreviation for “The Basketball Tournament.” It is an annual open, single-elimination basketball tournament played every summer with ESPN as its leading broadcaster. This year’s tournament featured a $1 million prize money, but in 2016-19, the prize was set at $2 million.
Most of the teams competing in TBT are made up of alumni from college programs, even though that’s not a requirement. TBT had as many as 97 teams competing back in 2015 and as few as 24 in 2020. In this year’s tournament, the 64 participants are divided into four regions, with the top two teams for each region advancing to the final eight.
The beauty of the TBT basketball tournament is that they allow female basketball players to compete alongside their male counterparts. Two-time WNBA All-Star Nikki Teasley played in the inaugural tournament while Iowa Hawkeyes women’s basketball legend Megan Gustafson was slated to play in 2019. However, since Gustafson was signed by the Dallas Wings in June, she was ultimately deemed ineligible.
How Do Basketball Tournaments Work?
Since its inauguration, TBT has used a modified version of the NCAA rules. The 2019 tournament had these rule exemptions:
- The game is played in nine-minute quarters instead of 20-minute halves.
- The foul limit is six instead of five in the NCAA.
- The FIBA rule is adopted when it comes to basket interference except for free throws. This means that if the ball touches the rim the first time, any player can get to the ball. The only exception is that you can’t interfere with the basketball when the game clock expires on any quarter and the ball still has a chance to go in.
- There have been no overtime games since the tournament implemented the Elam Ending in 2018. The Elam Ending was used in the play-in games for the 2017 tournament but became a fixture for all games starting in 2018.
The Elam Ending has made the games really interesting for TBT since its full-time enforcement in 2018. (The Elam Ending is a rule devised by Ball State University professor Nick Elam. The game clock is turned off at the first whistle inside four minutes of game time. The teams then play a target score, which is ruled as eight points more of the leading team’s score.)
Starting last year, there has been a slight change to the rule regarding the Elam Ending. If the defense commits a non-shooting foul and is in the penalty, the offense receives one free throw and ball possession. Since the offense will still have ball possession after a non-shooting foul in the penalty, this eliminates the incentive for the defense to foul on specific situations. One such situation is when the defense needs a free throw or a two-point field goal while the offense needs a three-pointer to reach the target score.
The basketball tournament schedule is typically played over a span of four weekends. The team that wins six straight will go on to win the prize money. If you have a roster of eight plus the general manager and coach, you could earn a handsome pay of $100,000. That’s right about $16,667 a game, which is more than what most players earn overseas.
How Do Teams Qualify for TBT?
Since this is an open tournament, it doesn’t take much for a team to qualify for a spot at The Basketball Tournament. Four slots in every region are available for buy-in on a “first come, first served” basis. Then, the nine teams in each region with the most fans will receive a bid. Last but not least, another four teams in each region will receive at-large bids.
According to the official team roster rules on the website, the roster must consist of at least seven players by 12 noon on a specific date. (For the year 2021, the date was set on June 15.) From there, the team may add players 72 hours before the first game of the Regional tournament and after paying the Player Registration Fee of $1,000. However, the teams that apply will ultimately be selected by a committee.
Here are more team roster rules of TBT in a nutshell:
- A team may add a player after the games have begun, but only if the said team advanced to Round 4. The player registration has now increased to $2,000.
- Any team seeking to add a player beyond the first 10 players after the set date may only be permitted to do so after paying the players’ registration fees.
To better understand these rules, here is an example. Suppose Boeheim’s Army has 10 players on its roster and wanted to add two more before playing a game, then they will have to pay $2,000 ($1,000 for each player).
Now, if Overseas Elite wins its first three games with 11 players on its roster and wants to add a 12th in the fourth round, they have to pay $2,000 before the 12th player is deemed eligible to play.
How Many Teams are in the TBT Tournament?
In the 2021 tournament, there are 64 teams in the TBT basketball tournament, but that hasn’t been that way all the time. In its maiden year in 2014, only 32 teams and went up to 97 teams in 2015. The 64-team field began in 2016 and continued in 2017 and 2019. There were 72 teams in 2018, and the field scaled back to 24 in 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic. In 2021, 64 teams once again, and the management has expressed the desire for the field to remain that way.
Can NBA Players Play in TBT?
The TBT basketball tournament has seen its popularity rise since its inauguration in 2014. That is mainly because of ESPN and a lot of NBA involvement. However, players currently on NBA rosters are not allowed to participate. Still, the TBT tournament is a melting pot for many high-level basketball talents, including Euroleague imports, former Division I standouts, and ex-NBA players.
How deep is the NBA’s involvement with TBT? It’s safe to say that current and former NBA players serve as the backbone for teams, be it boosters, hosts, or general managers. (In TBT lingo, a booster is defined as a person who assists the team in gaining entry to the tournament either by soliciting fan support or any other help the team needs off the court.)
Current NBA players that served as boosters for teams are Kristaps Porzingis, Rudy Gay, John Wall, and Austin Rivers. Retired NBA players Chandler Parsons and Shaun Livingston are also boosters. Carmelo Anthony helped TBT by becoming a host in Baltimore back in 2017. Chris Paul and DeMarcus Cousins also owned teams while Bobby Portis and Andre Drummond acted as coaches.
Here are just some of the former NBA players who have participated in TBT are the following:
- Hakim Warrick (19th pick in the 2005 NBA draft and played 10 seasons)
- Jason Williams (2006 NBA champion with the Miami Heat and played 13 seasons)
- Dahntay Jones (2016 NBA champion with the Cavs and played 14 seasons)
- Mike Bibby (No. 2 overall pick in 1998 and played 15 seasons)
- Joe Johnson (Also known as “Iso Joe,” Johnson is a 7-time All-Star and played 18 seasons)
- Royal Ivey (played 11 seasons and serves as an assistant coach for the Brooklyn Nets)
- Matt Bonner (also known as the Red Rocket, Bonner was a perennial fan favorite in San Antonio where he won two championships)
- Brian Scalabrine (affectionately known as the White Mamba, played 11 seasons in the NBA and was a part of the 2008 Celtics championship team)
- Trevor Booker (played 10 NBA seasons)
- Glen Rice, Jr. (2013 second-round pick who played for two seasons with the Washington Wizards)
- Daniel Ochefu (played one season with the Washington Wizards)
- Amir Johnson (14-year NBA veteran)
- Jonathon Simmons (Played for four NBA teams in as many seasons)
- Darius Johnson-Odom (Played two seasons in the NBA)
- Greg Oden (First pick of the 2007 NBA Draft)
How Do TBT Players Get Paid?
Since the TBT is a $1,000,000 winner-take-all tournament, it will be up to the team how they share the prize money. An additional 10%, which amounts to $100,000, is added for the team’s top fans. For example, the Golden Eagles, made up mostly of Marquette University alumni, decided to split the money evenly from the coach to the players when they won the 2020 TBT championship. General manager Daniel Fitzgerald earned $80,000.
7 Interesting Facts About TBT
1. Overseas Elite won the TBT championship in four straight years (2015-18). They won a total prize money of $7 million since the years 2016-18 features a pot of $2 million. The team is made up of professional basketball players who had no NBA experience. Erick McCollum was the only player to have played in all four Elite championship teams.
2. The only two-time tournament MVP of TBT is D.J. Kennedy of the aforementioned Overseas Elite. Kennedy, who played college ball at St. John’s, is currently playing in Ukraine.
3. Of the six tournament MVPs, only Darius Johnson-Odom had real NBA experience. Johnson-Odom was a second-round selection of the Mavericks while the other MVPs (Kennedy, Tyrone Nash, Kyle Fogg, William Buford, and Tyrese Rice) went undrafted.
4. Jeremy Pargo of the Overseas Elite has the record for most game-winning shots in the Elam Ending with five. It has since been matched by Jamil Wilson of the Golden Eagles in the 2020 tournament. Pargo played three seasons in the NBA, last appearing for the Golden State Warriors in 2019-20.
5. The giant bracket used by TBT as the winning team advances to the next round resembles that of the All Valley Karate Tournament in the movie The Karate Kid.
6. The Elite’s Erick McCollum was the brother of Blazers guard CJ McCollum. CJ served as a booster for the team in their second championship run.
7. Anyone over 18 years old and willing to forego their amateur status can play at TBT. There are no entry fees for teams, but players are required to pay a registration fee of $1000.
Wrapping Things Up: What is TBT Basketball?
Usually, we take a break from NBA basketball during the summer, but that doesn’t mean we can’t watch high-quality basketball during these months. After the March Madness and the NBA playoffs, basketball fans have a lot of basketball to look forward to. We’re talking about TBT or The Basketball Tournament. What is TBT basketball?
Simply put, the TBT basketball tournament is a $1,000,000 single-elimination, winner-take-all tournament that can be attended by anyone over 18 years old. With that being said, the participating teams will mostly be decided by fans and a selection committee. Most of the teams are composed of former NBA players and legitimate American basketball standouts playing overseas. That makes the quality of basketball played in TBT top-notch and definitely better than college basketball.
The TBT basketball tournament rules and regulations are pretty much similar to the NCAA rules with a few modifications. For instance, TBT is practically the home to the Elam Ending, an alternative basketball ending that aims to eliminate the constant foul fest happening at the end of games. Almost all of the games are competitive that only one championship game out of eight had a double-digit deficit. The seven other Finals games were decided by five points or less.
Besides of the quality of the games and intense competition, TBT has earned its stripes as one of the premier basketball tournaments in the world. Most of the players are basketball standouts in their own right, and the NBA involvement is sky-high. NBA stars like John Wall and Chris Paul are involved in the league in some capacity, either as a booster or team owners. On top of that, what separates TBT from other basketball leagues is its willingness to include female basketball players on rosters.
At the end of the day, there is no straightforward answer to the question, “What is TBT basketball?” What we know is, if you’re a true basketball fan, there is no reason why you wouldn’t enjoy this awesome basketball product.