With the 2023 TBL season starting on Wednesday, the chase for the championship is officially on and still goes through Shreveport.
Shreveport, Louisiana — Last month was the very first time that Head Coach Steve Tucker sat down and watched game film of the shot that rocked The Basketball last season and led to a 2022 championship over the Albany Patroons for the Shreveport Mavericks.
Up til that point, the echoes of the gym and the memories of an unforgettable moment was enough to comfort Coach Tucker, who his fifth title in his tenured coaching career. Mavericks guard PJ Meyers hit a tying jumper from the left baseline as time expired in regulation, and Shreveport never trailed in overtime in a 137-132 victory before 2,038 fans at Washington Avenue Armory in Game 3 of the best-of-3 TBL championship series.
This wasn’t supposed to happen. Season-long underdog. On the road. Overtime. No one expected the Mavericks to be in that position to win it all; no one except for the guys in that team huddle. So what were the emotions and what did Coach Tucker think after re-living the footage for the first time since hoisting the Lillie Trophy over his head last July?
“We look tired,” Coach Tucker told ATBL after watching the game film from Game 3.
“Guys were gasping for air. We looked like a team who had given it all we had, just like we had all season long. It was an incredible shot by PJ Myers.”
A life-changing moment. A shot to win it all. That’s what teams across The Basketball League are playing for with the 2023 TBL season officially starting on Wednesday, when Coach Tucker and the Mavericks begin to defend their title by hosting the Potawatomi Fire at the Gold Dome. It’s been a long wait to get to this point. The early days and long nights of offseason team planning are finally over. Training camp is in the books, along with exhibition preseason games. That big bullseye is now firmly affixed to the backs of the Mavs and they couldn’t be more willing to wear it.
“My goal is to be the first TBL team to win back-to-back titles,” Coach Tucker continued, pondering the next four to five months of basketball.
“There are a number of things a team needs in order to achieve a successful season. You’ve got to be good. You’ve got to be healthy. And you need hungry players. We’ve got that here. I can’t say enough about our guys…guys like Paul Parks for example. He’s the best player to play in TBL in my opinion and one of the best finishers I ‘ve seen. That’s what we need to win.”
With 49 teams across TBL vying for the opportunity to take what rightly belongs from Shreveport starting with Potawatomi in game one of the year, there’s no doubt this 2023 TBL season will be as unpredictable, uncertain, and unprecedented as the last.
Even a coach who is tasked with working some magic once again can see that.
“That championship game and doing it all over again…that’s really about catching lightning in a bottle,” Coach Tucker said with a grin.
“It was special.”
Wendell Maxey has covered and written about professional basketball and sports for 19 years including eight years reporting on the NBA in New York and Portland where his work appeared on ESPN.com, NBA.com, USA Today, FOX Sports, YAHOO Sports!, SLAM Magazine, and The Oregonian among other publications and outlets. Connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn or read through his archive on Linktree.