OK, so I’m the ‘OG’ or as some say, ‘legend’ out of respect for my age. Either way, we all move down the road. Some choose to go out early, quiet or hang on too long. I never wanted to follow the crowd, because I didn’t want to get lost in it. I wanted to blaze trails, attempt the impossible and never have someone else place boundaries on me. I played in the game and stayed inspired throughout my entire life until this very moment.
15 months ago, after 15 years of building my annual 3x3 game in Dallas and Charlotte as the 'DK 3x3 Invitational,' a thought popped in my basketball cranium. I asked myself: "Could I run an outdoor beach 3x3 tournament for Veterans?" This question took me into the future while looking back to my past experience with Laguna, Capistrano and Newport Beach Courts. I would get lost in solitary work or in pickup games with an ocean view and breeze. I ran the idea by my sponsor, PER4MAX and I got the encouragement I needed. I then contracted my Brand Manager and together, we rebranded my gig to’ DK3’. She built my website, social media content, and gave DK3 the polished look it needed. This decision would prove to be the match that lit the fire…from a slow burn to a raging fire.
Research was needed, but I lived in NC. I had asked Brad Parks, my close friend from San Clemente to do 'intel' on favorite venues. My favorite south Orange County courts were too small for my vision….we needed more hoops. Brad's daughter, Sarah, suggested I look at Venice (thank you Sarah). We looked it up on Google Earth and saw that it had 8 Hoops and was conveniently located in relation to LAX. Done deal! We reserved the ‘Iconic Courts’ though the City of Venice Parks and Recreation for October 12-13th, 2019.
Not knowing what a budget would truly look like for such an undertaking, I stepped up fundraising and sponsor recruitment. We began relationship building to find the right teammates and partners. The saying, ‘Build it and they will come’ uh.. wasn’t convinced on that one? I needed a means/partner to help with travel and accommodation to attract Veterans from all over the country. Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF)'s Operation Rebound came on as that partner which provided travel grants to a majority of DK3 registered players.
After a solid year of planning, DK3 online registration saw as many as 56 Veterans signed up, which meant 18 teams! Success yes….Panic lol!
We rolled up our sleeves for the biggest basketball blow out…the first of its kind outdoors, the first ever for Vets. The DK3 mission of intent was to honor those who had served, while putting on a great show at a venue that was so unique, with a sub-culture like no other. With 50 to 100,000 tourists coming to the boardwalk every day, DK3 had a world stage that wheelchair basketball sport has been never able to get in this country. 3x3 played outdoors by these Warriors, was a complete display of heart and soul. As Award-winning photographer and author Ursula Vari put it so eloquently in her blog: "
"The men and women who were at the courts that Sunday blew my mind on all levels. All veterans, who served this country to the very point of their wheelchairs, heroes with the most impeccable of hearts, whose stories are just as inspirational as their game. So when I think of (Anthony) McDaniel and the rest of the players, I see them as Pegasus with wings so wide, strength and grace so profound it could lift up the whole world and its people proving yet again that humanity and human resilience is alive and well, that all is possible once one masters the mind and arrests the false belief that of “No, I can’t “. “Yes, you SO can, and beyond…” DK and his warriors proved just that."
Inspiring the players all weekend, was our talented star DJ Kelci Newlin. She kicked out a real Venice vibe, which allowed players to feel the ‘Soul of the Game.' Courtney Ryan and Molly Bloom are the angels that made the music happen through their generous hearts and close friend, Kelci . DK3 at Venice Beach was simply a basketball tournament which had all the components of ‘sizzle’ and music played such a huge part in that. Also playing a huge part was Phoebe Ryan, recording artist and songwriter. Phoebe started the event off with a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem during our military flag presentation. Phoebe also rocked some of her songs live at our unbelievable Veterans BBQ on the beach after play on Saturday. The Pickled Pellet Heads of Bakersfield donated and prepared a meal beyond description which they started smoking with their grills at 7am. Was the best ever!
Venice Beach is the ‘Mecca’ of the west coast for ballers. You never know what you will get at Venice with its cast of characters. Like during our semifinal with our largest crowd of the weekend, a free spirit ran searching for his happy place and danced naked on center stage!!! That’s Venice! The boardwalk is a show of its own with its own energy.
We partnered with the Venice Ball League (VBL), as our ‘Official Ball’ of the tournament. Our MC was Venice Beach's one and only, ‘Mouthpiece’ who owns the mic at countless throw downs in ‘His House’. In the words of their founder, Nick Ansom ‘if heaven was a playground… Venice would be a Hooper’s Paradise’.
To all my sponsors, partners and friends who believed in what DK3 could deliver, first and foremost, my presenting sponsor, PER4MAX, Angel City Sports, who made the Wheelchair Basketball Clinic possible, Freedom Station- Warrior Foundation, LA Mayor's Office of Disability, Vital Proteins, LA LIVE NIKE 3X3 team, Challenged Athletes Foundation/ Operation Rebound, Turning Point, Spinergy Wheels, ABC Medical, the Yates Family, Cecile Ebert Foundation, Rick & Karen Swanson, Pickled Pellet Heads and so many other generous individual donors who have contributed to DK3 and made this crazy dream possible.
Last but not least, to every Veteran, let me say THANK YOU for allowing DK3 and its team of volunteers to give everything we had, while you gave everything you had at Hooper's Paradise on October 12-13th, 2019.
We hope to see you all again in 2020!
Peace through Christ and Hoops,