Interview with CEO of EBC, Greg Marius Uncategorized / Nov 5, 2008 / 11:52 pm

For over 28 years Greg Marius has crafted an unmatched legacy in the summer basketball circuit, converting a friendly roundball challenge between rap groups into a worldwide spectacle featuring high school and college All-Americans and dozens of professional/NBA stars. Rucker Park is one of ESPN’s 100 Most Important Sports Venues in America and the EBC’s global footprint has expanded through exposure on national outlets including MSG, MTV, BET and NBA TV.


PRC: Greg, please take Bouncemag.com’s readers and EBC fans back to the inception of your brand. Tell us how this phenomenon began.

Greg Marius: In the summer of ’80, I was in a rap group called the Disco Four. The group was comprised of Greg G (me), Ronnie D, Cool Gee, Mr. Troy, Country and DJ Al Bee. One night Ronnie D started talking about basketball while partying at the famous Harlem World Club with some members of the Crash Crew, a rival rap group, who were on the way to Mr. Magic’s radio show on WHBI, 105.9 for an interview. Ronnie D decided to tag along. At the time Mr. Magic’s show (premiering at 2 am – 4 am) was the only radio show that featured hip-hop music, so a lot of people listened to it. Jalil from Whodini and I used to volunter there during Mr. Magic’s Hour to help with the request line. Anyway, both groups started talking trash back and forth about whose squad was better at basketball and Mr. Magic (“Be there or be square”) publicly declared it a challenge. I set up a game for the following Sunday at Mt. Morris Park on 122nd Street and Madison Avenue. When we showed up at the park that day, I kid you not—there were over 1,000 people, rappers and radio listeners, waiting to watch the game. I couldn’t believe it. We ended up winning by 59 points, which provoked even more challenges from other rap groups. We created a tournament out of it (Disco Four won that year) and the EBC was born.

PRC: When did the EBC make the shift from featuring entertainers, in the musical sense, to big-time ball players that it hosts today?

Greg Marius: That next summer, in ’81, the rap club Fever brought a team of ringers to the tournament. I mean they had guys playing ball overseas and everything. I was like that ain’t fair. So I got on the phone and called in an army: Walter Berry, Dwayne “Pearl” Washington, Kenny Hutchinson, Richie Adams and Greg Springer. They were All-City high school players at the time, some of them All-Americans, and I knew most of them from playing with the Riverside Church Hawks. The rule, though, was that you had to have two entertainers on the court at all times.

PRC: That’s a good provision. After the arms race in talent took place in ’81, did the EBC explode the following year?

Greg Marius: Well, in ’82 I decided not to do the tournament at all. I was practically running it all by myself except for some help from my boy JR and my group member Cool Gee. I was working at A.J. Lester’s at the time on 125th Street, where all of the hustlers shopped for their clothes. It was there that I met a salesman we called “Big Chuck” who was shocked by the fact that I stopped hosting the tournament. I knew it was big, but I didn’t know it was that big where people actually missed it. Chuck offered to help me get it going again and we moved the EBC up to 139th Street & Lenox Avenue the following summer. A.J. Lester’s was our first clothing sponsor.

PRC: Is that when the EBC outgrew its venue and headed further uptown to Rucker Park?

Greg Marius: Not just yet. In ’83, the dynamic shifted. College players like Steve Burtt, Troy Truesdale and Fred Brown were drawing massive crowds at the park. We also moved the tournament from the weekend to the weekdays because rap groups were traveling on the weekends to do shows. That is how the EBC evolved into its current Monday through Thursday format. The explosion took place in ’85, when I was introduced to a family friend who worked at The Athlete’s Foot. He had a business relationship with a company called Brooks, where Dominique Wilkins was the spokesperson.

PRC: Dominique wore Brooks?

Greg Marius: Yeah and my friend told me that he could get Dominique to the park to judge a slam dunk contest. We tied down the date for July 17, 1985. The reason I remember it so clearly is because it was the same day that my daughter was born. My daughter arrived into this world at 3 a.m. on that day. It was raining hard all morning with no sign of letting up. Twelve hours and a quick nap later, the rain stopped and the sun came out strong. It got hot out there and we were able to dry off the court by 5:30pm, just in time for the game. I was thanking God all day. By the time Dominique got out of his limo, people were everywhere – on buildings, hanging off roofs – and traffic was backed up Lenox Ave. and 139th St. in Harlem. Dominique judged the dunk contest and after numerous requests, he gave the crowd a windmill dunk that literally vaulted the EBC out of 139th Street to Rucker Park.

PRC: So, the Human Highlight Film was the tipping point for the EBC?

Greg Marius: Yep. We moved up to Rucker Park in ’86, were sanctioned by the NCAA in the mid-‘90s and the NBA in 2000.

PRC: There’s a lot of history here and I’m sure we can craft a book out of it and hopefully we will. But, in the meantime, what is your favorite moment in EBC history?

Greg Marius: To be honest, it goes back to that first day when I walked in Mt. Morris Park and saw 1,000 people in the crowd.

PRC: The beginning of a legacy. And who is/are the best player/s to come out of the EBC?

Greg Marius: Oh man, there’s too many to name and I don’t want to forget anyone. About every five years there was a significant shift in the pool of talent. In the beginning there were the players I mentioned above, plus the likes of Hilton Graham, Billy Banks, Olden Polynice and Wendell Ramsey. Then we had Steve Burtt and the Thornton Brothers, Lamont (“Tip”) and Mike (“Boogie”). There was Rob Wright, Master Rob, Kerry Thompson, Troy Truesdale, Pookie Wilson, Cornbread and David “Dunkenstein.” The more recent stars include Kareem Reid, Alimoe, Wally Nixon, Adrian Walton and the Future. Today we have guys like Lance Stephenson, SpongeBob, Steve Burtt, Jr., Kenny Satterfield, and the Woodward brothers. There’s so many great players and I apologize in advance for any exclusions on this brief list.

PRC: The list does go on and on. My last question is two-fold: What is your vision of the EBC and what would you like to accomplish in the next 5 years?

Greg Marius: Aside from expanding our platform and producing special events like the National AAU Invitational, the EBC International Challenge and Battle of the Boroughs (Men’s & High School), the underlying goal is create a scholarship program for our youth. We would love to watch the progress – academically and athletically – of our youth from 8 years old through the completion of high school and college. There’s no better feeling than ensuring that our next generation of children are prepared in the classroom and on the court for life after basketball or during their professional playing careers.

PRC:Thanks for your time Greg. I’m looking forward to the start of the 2009 EBC season on June 15th.

Peter Robert Casey recently earned an advanced degree in Organizational Psychology from Columbia University and is an authoritative basketball columnist – www.peterrobertcasey.com – and Director of Sponsorships & Business Development for the EBC at Rucker Park. He can be reached at peter.robert.casey@gmail.com.

20 Responses to “Interview with CEO of EBC, Greg Marius”

  1. Seldom Seen says:

    Nice article

  2. Elliot Rosado says:

    Greg has given the kids who cannot afford to go to an N.B.A. game the opportunity to watch and meet some of the best players in the world for free. Not to many people can say that. Bill Clinton was also the first former president i evr seen in person, Courtesy of EBC. LOL!

  3. Russ M. says:

    Good stuff

  4. ali says:

    excellent read Peter. it’s good for folks to understand the background info and hear from visionaries that create lasting legacies.

  5. funkalot says:

    We are all indebted to Greg and his EBC brainchild. It really catapulted streetball into mainstream consciousness and was principally, responsible for spawning the ancillary business enterprises associated with streetball, including: marketing/merchandising by sneaker and athletic/Hip Hop apparel companies, music industry associations, national media exposure, professional streetball tours and other leagues. Streetball became a vocation and Greg pioneered its transformation.

    Personally, we have love for him in the “Bean” AKA- Boston, because of his influence on and bond with Mike Bivins (New Edition/BBD and Boys to Men fame) and Mike’s creation of the BIV 10K National Streetball Challenge. Greg has brought an EBC All-Star contingent to participate and share the ambience of EBC with us and for that we are grateful.

    However, having taken an annual pilgimage to EBC from the Bean last seven years, I have noticed a steady decline and worry that EBC may become extinct or worse irrelevant.

    Anyway, Greg, you are still that dude!

  6. illest says:

    how about Niques involvement in the Rucker move? crazy

  7. Peter Robert Casey says:

    All,

    Thanks for the comments. I started working with Greg this past July and I’m always humbled by his commitment to do more and more for others, particularly the youth. His creativity and ability to stay on the forefront of change (rather than resist it) is remarkable. I personally owe him a lot for providing the opportunity to translate my passion for the game into a position with the EBC brand.

    -PRC

  8. Jaquam says:

    A while ago i was watching something caled THE REAL and i got to learn alot about the EBC summer league one thing i found suprising was i didn’t know ESPN was Televising EBC games back in the 80’s EBC is one of the best leagues in the world and the history of it is more richer than i thought .

  9. Casey Lee says:

    Pete, I would love to help you with some work for the EBC in the future…great piece!

    I like the throwback photos too!!

  10. Bx Baller says:

    How come no one has mentioned ‘that his tournament fell off’? and that mosey’s tri state was the top tourney in the city last year! and why you can get a seat anywhere at ebc now? Also did you ask him why is he trying to stop mousey from having the tri state removed from 145 st? Just asking so inquiring minds would like to know!

  11. Bobbito Garcia a.k.a. Kool Bob Love says:

    jaquam-

    the espn footage in the THE REAL DVD was actually of the 1980 Rucker Pro League Championship, not the EBC which as Greg points out above didn’t move to ‘55th until 1986. People often mistake the two leagues for being the same, however the only thing they share is the hallowed ground they’ve occupied and the love and respect of their respective era’s. if you want to get deeper into the specific history of each, pick up Bounce issue #6 which is still available through our online store which you click at the top menu above.

    are those greg’s brooks in teh photo? still on stash? crazy!

    greg or prc–is EBC still coming out with their own sneaker line? i saw a sample greg wore 2 summers ago.

    shout out to Al. B who has held down the ebc mic for years. great dude, man.

    and the mention of tip dog and mike boogie gives me a great feeling inside. those two had handles that were ridiculous. ridiculous. if only this modern youtube/mixtape generation could’ve seen the madness they were pulling off! legal, too! i got plenty stories. lamont and i ran together once, and i got to go up against his brother mike boogie in ray diaz on 100th st. those dudes are legendary entertainers in my book. for real. maybe not

  12. Peter Robert Casey says:

    @Bx Baller: Thank you for reading the interview.

    I think it’s safe to say that nobody is talking negatively about Greg Marius or the EBC because they understand and respect the fact that for over 28 years, Greg built the world’s most renowned summer tournament that has hosted David Stern, President Bill Clinton, Denzel Washington, Gabrielle Union, Faizon Love, Don Cheadle, Chris Brown, Beyonce, Jay-Z, Leon and Rhianna.

    Let’s not forget the numerous NBA stars who sought out a run at the EBC. You know guys like Kobe Bryant, Baron Davis, Steve Francis, Sean Marion, Kenyon Martin, Richard Jefferson, Allen Iverson, Kevin Garnett and Joe Smith, just to name a few.

    A dip in attendance for a park that holds 1,200 spectators versus the bleacher capacity of 150 is like comparing MSG to my high school gym. If we brought our crowd to the smaller-sized hoops tournaments in NYC, the Fire Department would shut the venue down.

    Let’s talk about 2009 though, when we bring the century old institution of AAU ball outdoors, host an international challenge with 3 European teams, and pull together the City’s best talent for Battle of Boroughs.

    Since the EBC’s celebrity over the years caused a dozen or so new tournaments to spring up and borrow from the fixed supply of talent, we whittled our team participation down to the 8 best teams, with the best sponsors, and the best coverage.

    We hope to have you visit the park in ‘09.

  13. Peter Robert Casey says:

    @ Bobbito: The pair of Brooks pictured above are actually listed on eBay right now!

    No sneaker lines in the immediate future, but certainly on our radar as we broaden the brand.

    Wish I was around to the guys from that era get down at the parks.

  14. d-wizzle says:

    i can honestly say that we all know the ebc has had a decline over the past 3-4 yrs and in that time frame, other t’ments have stepped up and are looking to carry the torch of being the top elite t’ments in the city, just like ebc has done for many many years, noone can compare to ebc’s track record of celebs and nba stars and crowds it brought, but like our new pres says, “Change” is what we’re experiencing in NYC streetball, theres a change in the mainstream of NYC streetball where youre seeing t’ments being held in places from playgrounds, neighborhoods, parks and beaches. yea who wouldve thought streetball would make its way on a city beach? (incredible idea whomever came up with that!!!)

    its incredible how the landscape has changed in the 21st century, and now youre seeing those t’ments who have sprung up since 2000, like hoops in the sun, watson, tri-state etc. are on the come up where as well you have other main-stayers like dyckman and pro city, but my point is that youre seeing a different direction as oppose to what ebc is giving you now a days, and people want to go where its “poppin” and where to see the best games and the best new young talent out there and just to see something different

    ebc to me will always be that t’ment that people will always remember, especially the streetball pundits, but as we end 2008 and enter 2009, we’re in a different era, different time frame and are thirsting for something new, ebc i believe had its time and era as the “Mecca”

    now with t’ments like dyckman, hoops in the sun, tri-state, pro city etc, ebc shouldn’t feel ashamed or dissapointed if any of these t’ments would take that seat at the top but these above t’ments are basically the future and the next go around of what we can expect to see for the next couple of years and trust me, these venues will be just as packed as ebc was in the 80’s, 90’s and early 00’s.

  15. Peter Robert Casey says:

    The Celtics had a 22 year decline and they’re back on top. Don’t count as out so quickly. We have injected new blood into the business and are focused as ever. We highly respect our peers at Dyckman, HITS, Pro City, Watson, etc. and we actually think it’s great for the game of basketball. We’re ambassadors of the game, much like Bounce itself. It’s great to see so many people on here from all around the world talking about basketball.

  16. Bx Baller says:

    I applaud you d-wizzle you seem to know what yu are talking about1 and sounds like fan of the game.it is sad to say that this”peter guy” is on the ebc staff as you can see by what he has written.He is talkinf on about what ebc HASDONE IN THE PAST!,but as jaet sang “WHAT HAVE YOU DONE FOR ME LATELY”

    Plain and simple greg went away from what got him there,just simply running a basketball tournament.He went hollywood and that is why his fan base went to kingdome,and 45st! and even 119 st too! People were getting in line and standing for like two hours to watch a game! and get frisked and have the whole police watch every move you make.

    As for the top 8 teams give me a break! teams just didn’t want to go there and play no more,even after greg lowered his entry fee to like 5k? Just face it his run is over and know it is time for change like Obama!

    Big up hits,mouseykingdome and the best tourney inthe city pro city.

    Thank you.

  17. d-wizzle says:

    bx baller: thanks for the kind words lol, im not trying to sound like im writing off ebc, theyve been doin this for so many years and its hard to just count them out, but with the trend thats been happening since basically the 03/04 ebc season when they had that incredible season in 2003 with the whole fat joe/jay-z thing and 04 with ebc america, alot has happened, maybe people havent forgotten about NOT seeing possibly the greatest streetball chip in history take place in 2003 at ebc…i dont know but what i know is that fans are taking notice at other locations, the door has opened up for alot of t’ments now, things are changing and times are changing too and we’re rolling into a new modern era of streetball, HITS has stepped their game up, dyckman stepped their game up, pro city, tri-state, even a few summers ago we were sayin the same about kingdome takin ebc’s spot as #1 and i honestly feel kingdome falls into that ebc category as fallen off as well but their situation was totally different than ebc’s, unless they can get their music back on and games back on at night and bring back what they had in 05/06 then i dont see kingdome making a strong comeback…most of these t’ments are in competition with one another and rightfully so but i doubt theyll admit it, 2008 was a great summer at majority of t’ments, well just see where 2009 takes us

  18. doan says:

    fuuull hudooo

  19. Fred Brown says:

    Hey Bobbito,
    What’s up Greg,
    This is a good look. Many people don’t know the history of the ebc and often confuse it with the pro rucker. It is very difficult to run a tournament and get the top players to play consistantly. So to have a tournament exist for 28 years and for at least 23/24 years the park is packed where there is no standing room is special.I was one of the players packin the park in the 80s as well as having a team for 20 years. Other people along the way helped with the success of the ebc. (coahes,sponsors,community & the players. There’s enough room and love for many tournaments to be successful and there are some. To get back to that level Greg has to get the 8th ave basketball admirers,the past/present players, coaches and sponsors to want to come back to the park and that’s easier said than done. Good luck Greg!

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