Earlier this month, we reported on the struggles of the Champions Basketball League, a startup league that has repeatedly failed to get off the ground after raising over $700,000 from hundreds of investors who were promised an impressive list of perks and ownership of a piece of a 16-team pro league replete with former NBA talent and an ESPN broadcast deal. Today, the Champions Basketball League continued its months-long face plant.
As we reported last week, the league’s inaugural season was supposed to start in July. The date of the first game was then pushed back to August 2, and then rescheduled once again for August 23. Meanwhile, the league was cut down from 16 to 10 teams, only three rosters were released, and it was unclear if the league had even secured an arena to play in. A few days after our story was published, the league announced that the first game between the Gotham Ballers and L.A. Superstars was on track to be played at the Nassau Coliseum on August 23, and tickets went on sale. Last night, in an email to the hundreds of people who have invested in the Ballers, Champions Basketball League CEO Carl George announced that the game had been cancelled. He cited “third parties” that “acted improperly” as a reason for the cancellation, and promised that a lawsuit was forthcoming:
Please accept our apology.
As an essential part of Champions Basketball League’s success, there is a late breaking development that we need to inform you about before we announce it publicly.
After going through a significant development process, and nine months of exhibition games and events, we’ve been poised to launch our first game this week in New York. Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond our control, we must postpone the launch - including all events in the next 48 hours.
We are committed to exceeding expectations and putting a premium product on the court for our fans and supporters, and we will continue to do so. Unfortunately, despite our good faith, fair dealings and established legal rights, third parties have acted improperly to prevent the scheduled launch of our season.
We are in the process of filing a significant lawsuit this week. We will release the details of this in a formal statement on Friday. We have earmarked 25% of the damages from this lawsuit to go to the players and 25% to go to the Gotham Ballers and LA SuperStars SuperFAN owners.
Our job is to produce great events with players that you know and love and to build a great business requires us to take this step at this time. With the formal statement Friday we will outline the league’s next steps for basketball as well.
Being in direct communication with many of you throughout the past week and today, we understand you share our strong feelings about getting the league launched and we do not take this step lightly.
All tickets for the Wednesday game will be refunded, and if you incurred expenses for travel please contact us directly at SuperFanOwners@GothamBallers.com.
Once available on Friday, we will share our full statement with you to provide a clear understanding of why we made this decision at this time. We will host an Owners Only conference call tonight at 7:30 Eastern Time and on Friday at 12pm ET and will keep you all apprised of any additional updates as the week goes on.
(I reached out to George for comment on who he will be suing and why, but have yet to hear back.)
Shortly after news of this latest cancellation, The Ringer published a long, confusing, and confused feature about the Champions Basketball League. It is functionally a profile of George, and while it offers the subject plenty of room to reveal himself as an addled con man of sorts—George is quoted at length saying wild shit like “Why isn’t the first 10 minutes before every baseball game a home run derby for charity?” when not setting up sketchy-sounding meetings with Floyd Mayweather, Jr., talking about players who were “traded from Duke to the NBA,” or claiming Cardi B and T.I. would perform at the league’s opening game (he told me it would be Nicki Minaj)—it eventually comes in for a soft landing, with George and the league lauded for their “radical honesty.” For some reason, it even cites the league’s failure to run an actual game as vindicating it against reporting pointing out its failure to run any actual games. Good luck keeping your head on straight after reading these two paragraphs, which appear very close to each other (emphasis mine):
It would be unfair at this point to conclude that the CBL will fail, or is being dishonest, simply because it has run into some of the challenges — rising costs, schedule changes — that many startups face. In some ways, the league has already earned vindication from the Deadspin piece. It announced, recently, that Nassau Coliseum would indeed host the first CBL game, the Ballers versus the Superstars, on August 23, and began to sell tickets.
On Tuesday, the day before opening night, the CBL announced via Facebook that the game was being postponed. It attributed the delay to “circumstances beyond our control,” and promised to refund all ticket purchases.
The biggest issue with The Ringer’s piece, however, is that its credulousness extends to only making passing mention of the Champions Basketball League’s investment campaign:
This spring, George raised the stakes of this summer’s launch by allowing fans to buy shares in the CBL’s flagship teams, the Gotham Ballers and Los Angeles SuperStars. The program has been a boon for the CBL. The Ballers have raised more than $600,000 in investment money — at their own valuation of roughly $80 million — and the SuperStars have raised more than $130,000. It has also drawn heightened scrutiny. As the summer drew on without a CBL launch, fans who otherwise might have been simply impatient began to fear that they were being fleeced. Investors voiced their anxieties on the public message boards for each team’s StartEngine page. “I think this is a scam,” one investor wrote. Another posted, “It has been several months and I have nothing to show for my investment,” adding that it was “alarming that we are in the middle of July with no schedule out yet.”
The investment campaign is the central issue here. There’s nothing wrong with some guy who considers himself a swinging-dick thinkfluencer trying and struggling to start a new pro league that will disrupt the basketball space—shit like that happens all the time and such ventures aren’t really worth remarking on. The only real reason to pay attention to the Champions Basketball League is that it took hundreds of thousands of dollars from normal, hardworking fans who have yet to receive much of what they were promised. George and his cohorts used a glossy pitch that has thus far proven completely hollow to pry what might be read as a no-interest loan worth over $700,000 from regular basketball fans. Any story about the Champions Basketball League should begin and end with that in mind.