Streetball has long been confined to park playgrounds and gymnasiums across the globe, until around the mid-2000s when the culture grabbed national attention thanks to TV exposure via shows like ESPN’s “Streetball” and “City Slam” among others.
That exposure spawned the creation tours and companies like AND1 and Ball4Real, helping further push the culture into the mainstream. However, some feel that — despite the corporate element finally showing its face into the streetball arena — players haven’t always been the beneficiaries of its success.
One man — a second generation streetball player hailing from Compton, California — plans to change all that. His name is Donye Mitchell, legendary Venice Beach streetballer and owner of ABA team, the Los Angeles Push.
After leaving law school due to a family emergency, Mitchell wanted to go back to his roots, which was basketball, and has since put his brain to work for nearly 2 1/2 years to see his plan set in motion.
Through his Push Company, the veteran streetballer is trying to take the streetball culture to new heights, and not just to benefit himself, but to help nurture and educate the actual players, bringing the ownership of the sport back to them.
“The Push Company was formed with an entertainment backbone,” Mitchell tells BallerStatus.com. “We needed a way we could express our creative geniuses under one umbrella. That’s why we created the Push Company, so we could implement some of our creative expressions through art, the internet, and through television.
“Street basketball, for a long time, has been given a bad stigma. They believe that street basketball players smoke dope, they have anger management issues, they hang out, they fight … there’s little credence to the art they perform. What I wanted to do was embrace street basketball because I’m a street basketball player myself,” he adds.
Mitchell’s Push Company boasts a professional ABA basketball team; an entertainment division, which has developed and is developing eight TV series centered around streetball; and a non-profit organization that offers free anger management programs for players and at-risk youth, as well as a Push basketball league, taking place in 16 cities.
In July, his company held the 1st Annual Street Ball Festival & Awards Ceremony at the famous Venice Beach basketball courts. It was organized to celebrate the sport, as well as the city of Los Angeles for allowing players to showcase their skills on Venice Beach for so many years.
“It was a celebration of street basketball culture,” explained Mitchell of the event. “I wanted to showcase that street basketball was viable, it’s economic and is, in fact, and art form. [Second, I wanted to reward the city’s police, Mayor, park staff and fire departments] for allowing us to grow here un-a-bridged. They could come here and monitor us, and send the park staff to regulate us, but they leave us open, and they’ve done so for years.”
The festival also served as production for the filming of new seasons for his TV shows — Ballin’, Streetball Reality, and ABA Dreams to name a few — all of which air on indie TV station KVMD channel 23. According to Mitchell, Streetball Reality will place eight famous players in a mansion for 30 days where they will showcase their abilities, not just in basketball, but in other areas as well, including music. “We’re gonna show the world that street basketball players are dynamic, multi-dimensional, and not just out there on the court,” he says.
ABA Dreams, however, will document his Los Angeles Push ABA team’s entire professional season — from antics in the locker rooms, their play on the court, and what takes place on their off time.
While Mitchell and his Push Company have a lot going on, he’s motives aren’t driven by strictly monetary gain. He’s an old school player, and revealed to us that he’s seen too many of his peers get taken advantage of over the years. He plans to make a stand. How? Mitchell wants to organize a streetball labor union, a streetball player owned corporation under his guise, and help the new generation, as well as the old, protect their rights and business opportunities.
“You gotta understand, all these years of playing street basketball, we weren’t rewarded for them,” Mitchell explains. “I told [the players I know] they need to protect their moves. I told everyone. AND1 came up and sweep them all away, gave them a little funky $10,000, $20,000, and then they went bananas. Years later, they made shoes, the videos and stuff, and they didn’t pay them. They didn’t because they weren’t SAG. No one represented them — their publishing, royalties and all that stuff. They all came back and said ‘Donye, you were right.’ Of course I was, it was a no-brainer. Business is business. Protect your moves. Now, they’re like ‘Whatever you do, I’m with you.’
“It’s time for us to organize and give the ownership back to their players. The players need to organize, form their own companies — under one umbrella — and hire a marketing firm to shop their talent, but at a fee. All the royalties from all the distribution deals, that has to come back home to us, so that we can distribute that through the culture,” he adds.
Donye is very familiar with the entire streetball culture, not through studying it or watching it on TV, but through living it, as mentioned. He grew up playing basketball on Venice Beach with the first generation of player. Making friends with vets at a young age holds a place in his heart that lingers today.
“First time I came to Venice Beach was 1980. I was 10 years old. The older guys, the first generation, they allowed me to play with them. That was a profound statement for them to let me play with them. They didn’t know my situation. I used to catch the bus, beg my mom to drive me,” he said, beginning to get emotional recalling the memories. “They embraced me. That gave me hope to excel. I was here every weekend, every opportunity I could get. I learned that to them, basketball, it was more. I learned from the old heads. Passing that along sparked a whole streetball entertainment value.”
With his heart still with the raw form of basketball, known as streetball, Mitchell wants the culture to expand. On the player’s terms though. By everyone working together, he feels that can happen.
While he awaits his vision to come to fruition, he continues to set up various events to help that happen. Over the weekend, on Sunday (August 17), his Los Angeles Push team will hold their second tryouts at the Los Angeles Adventist Academy all day, allowing aspiring streetballers a chance at making the team.
He is also putting together a Push League, open to everybody. There will be several age groups in the 16-city league across the country, all of whom will compete for a chance to play at NBA All-Star Weekend for the National City Championship.
For more information about Mitchell’s Push Company, visit ABAPush.com.