The Native American Basketball Invitational (NABI) will showcase top athletes and nail-biting competition among teams during its annual tournament July 9-13. NABI is the largest basketball tournament for Native American and indigenous youth, and it all happens at the Ak-Chin Indian Community and the City of Maricopa, Arizona.
This year, 128 basketball teams compete — 64 boys’ teams and 64 girls’ teams. Over 160 teams applied to play, and a selection committee chose the participating teams. The teams travel from around the country and world to this event. This year’s farthest teams come from New Zealand, with a boy’s and girls’ team coming to play. Tournament play, particularly a team travelling from Alaska, will even be featured on “Religion of Sports.” This documentary series highlights competition and rivalries from around the world.
After athlete check-in and coaches’ meetings, a Movie Night will be open to the public in the Ak-Chin Amphitheater on Sunday, July 8. NABI competition basketball games are also open to the public, happening July 9-13 at five different gym locations in and around Maricopa.
New this year, teams are divided into Division 1 and 2 levels, to help create balance in play. Division 1 teams are comparable to varsity teams, and Division 2 are similar to junior varsity.
Get your tickets for the Championship games for Divisions 1 and 2 happening Saturday, July 14 at the Talking Stick Resort Arena in downtown Phoenix, home of the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury. Doors open at 10 a.m. and opening ceremonies begin at 10:45 a.m. Duncan Okitkun from Alaska will perform at halftime of the boys’ Division 1 game.
While the basketball competition brings excitement and thrills, the tournament isn’t only about sports. A college and career fair and inspiring speakers encourage athletes to plan for their futures. Noted guests will share their own experiences. Both NABI alumnae, Dominic Clichee and Rudy Anaya are scheduled to speak about the impact of NABI on their lives. Retired NBA player AC Green has supported NABI since it began and will discuss the “Power of Change.” In addition, there is a private Junior NABI camp held during the tournament, which features NBA and WNBA players helping to prepare younger basketball players for future NABI competition.
NABI Night on Wednesday, July 11 happens at the UltraStar Multi-tainment Center at Ak-Chin Circle. The evening includes a Meet & Greet party, an opening ceremony with a parade of flags, and performers including Antoine Edwards and GRIZZ. These two Native American performers travel the country to perform at pow-wows and other Native American events.
The NABI Foundation provides and promotes educational programs for Native American youth. According to the NABI website, the NABI invitational has become the largest all-Native American Basketball Invitational and the first of its kind to be sanctioned by the NCAA.
2017 Boys Gold Division
Champs: Cheyenne Arapaho, Oklahoma
Runner Up: Lower Sioux, Minnesota
2017 Girls Gold Division
Champs: Yakama Nation, Washington
Runner Up: NN Elite, Arizona