Over 35 years ago, Harlem native Greg Marius merged an emerging cultural force in Hip Hop music with New York City’s longstanding passion for playground summer basketball, giving birth to the Entertainer’s Basketball Classic, known worldwide as the EBC. A visionary who created something beautiful, his contributions to popular culture might not be well known, but they are monumental.
(Greg Marius, Photo Credit: Getty Images)
The basketball world and NYC mourned his passing a few months ago in April. But what he created will forever live on in street lore and in the minds of those who experienced the EBC at its apex.
A few days prior to his death, Greg tapped his 29-year-old nephew Cordell Marius as his successor, naming him as EBC’s new CEO and Commissioner.
My uncle always told me that obstacles may come, but when you stay focused on succeeding, you can overcome anything. I believe that I was destined for this and I am going to show the world I will succeed, Cordell said.
We sat down with Cordell to talk about what he learned from his legendary uncle, and what’s in store as EBC transitions toward the days and years ahead under new leadership.
The Shadow League: What are some of your earliest EBC memories, before you were old enough to really understand what your uncle Greg had popping off in that legendary venue, Rucker Park?
Cordell Marius: As a kid, I spent a lot of time with Greg and as everyone knows, he spent his summers entirely in that park. I just remember running around, interacting with the staff, watching the games, and being on the court in between games shooting baskets. I looked at Rucker Park like the playground that my uncle just ran. It wasnt until I got a little bit older that I started to understand the magnitude of what he was doing and what he had built out there with the Entertainers Basketball Classic.
TSL: So how old were you when you started to understand that magnitude and what was it that made you step back and realize that this wasnt just some regular basketball tournament?
Cordell: I was about 14 or 15 and my cousin and I were working for him. When you start to understand how big the crowds were, how many people from all over were coming to experience it, the names that he was bringing in from both the basketball side and the entertainment industry, thats when I realized that when I said that my uncle was Greg Marius, the CEO of the Entertainers Basketball Classic in Rucker Park, that carried some weight. It wasnt just a must-see event for people in Harlem and New York City. People were coming from all over the country and the world. Thats when I started putting two and two together.
After helping the Lakers win their 3rd straight NBA championship, Kobe Bryant put on a show at the legendary Rucker Park.
TSL: At what point did Greg start sharing some of the behind-the-scenes business stuff with you to help you understand what went into making this run?
Cordell: Truthfully, he wasnt a hands-on teacher in terms of, You gotta do this, this and this. As Im learning now, this tournament is a thing where you have to go with the flow type motion of it. His lessons for me were overall throughout life. My family is close, so I spent a lot of time with him. Greg had a habit of teaching life lessons through everyday experiences. Those are the experiences that I apply to what Im doing now.
TSL: You have a background in youth development, mentoring and working to elevate others. I think that fits into your role taking control of the EBC moving forward. What are some of the things youre learning on the job that perhaps you werent aware of before?
Cordell: Im learning that its about balancing what other people need and making the transition from someone who is simply a worker to someone who has actual solutions to problems. I think thats the next step in terms of my professional maturity.
TSL: On the business side, whether its managing and growing sponsorships, dealing with media, organizing and putting things together, whats the biggest thing that youve taken so far from the work this summer?
Cordell: Definitely dealing with things on the corporate side. Greg had impressive relationships with some very impressive and influential people. A lot of people did things for Greg because of those relationships that hed built. Its about maintaining those, and building my own contacts moving forward.
TSL: Theres obviously a generational gap between what Greg started over 35 years ago and now you bringing this youthful energy to EBC. What are some of your goals in terms moving the league and all that it represents moving forward?
Cordell: I think just getting it to resonate with the youth once again. A lot of things have changed. Like you said, theres a generational gap. A lot of people are becoming famous via social media. We have to involve those people who have that type of clout and make entertainment a bigger portion of the tournament.
Our Saviour Lutheran’s star point guard Posh Alexander aka The Goods puts on a dunk show at the Greg Marius Court after his win over Malloy.
TSL: Over the last few years, theres been a resurgence in terms of the high school talent coming out of New York. Obviously a lot of guys go to play in Jersey or in prep schools around the country, but theyre from New York City, guys like Mohamed Bamba whos from Harlem but prepped right outside of Philly. In the summertime, when those guys are home and not running on the AAU circuit, it seems like theres a renewed energy on the playgrounds coming from this new crop of very talented high school kids. How are you trying to capitalize on that?
Cordell: Deifnitely. Our high school commissioner, Steve Barnett, does his due diligence in terms of reaching out to the top high school players during the off-season to make sure that theyre with us on opening day and balling at Rucker Park throughout the summer. Were definitely gonna be on the high school scene and help nourish the next generation of talent.
TSL: So far, whats been your proudest moment this summer?
Cordell: It has to be having the court named after my uncle. Its now Greg Marius Court.
TSL: Looking forward, how do you want to take EBC to the next level?
Cordell: My goal is to carry the flame of the legacy that he started. I have to put my fingerprints on it now and carry it through the next steps so we can continue to give back to the youth and up-and-coming artists and let the community benefit through the platform. We want to make this a safe haven and a great place that people can continue to call home.