Ricky Volante, CEO of the Historical Basketball League (HBL), and David West, COO of the HBL, announced the initial members of the HBL Athlete Advisory Board (AAB). The AAB will consist of: NBA players TJ Warren and Darren Collison, NBA Hall of Famer Mitch Richmond, NFL Hall of Famers Terrell Owens and Champ Bailey, former NBA players Etan Thomas, CJ Watson, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, Butch Lee, and Jimmy King, who is joined on the AAB by his Fab Five teammate Ray Jackson. In addition to joining the AAB, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf has accepted a position on the overall HBL Advisory Board.
The AAB consists of current and former professional athletes that serve as ambassadors and mentors to the players in the HBL. These athletes will advise the HBL Management Team, especially when making impactful decisions on the lives of our players. No one better understands the intricate balancing act college athletes endure managing their educational and athletic responsibilities. HBL athletes will benefit from the experience and mentorship of AAB members, regarding personal development and preparedness for the professional ranks.
Earlier in the week, Volante and West introduced Terrell Owens as the HBL's first official Team Ambassador. As a Team Ambassador, Owens will be directly involved with a single HBL team as an influencer and one of the team's marketing faces. He will work with the HBL's management team to identify and secure local sponsors, partners, and investors. Additionally, Terrell will serve as a mentor and resource to the team's athletes. On joining the HBL, Owens said, "The change the HBL is bringing is long overdue, and I'm thrilled to join as the first Official Team Ambassador. An athlete-first model that will treat college athletes equitably and as partners is needed, and I'm excited to be a part of its development."
In describing the AAB's importance, Volante said, "David and I are excited to be able to offer our athletes the opportunity to tap into the decades of collective experience of the AAB. As a former college athlete, I know the challenges in transitioning from high school to college can be daunting, but our athletes will be pioneers. In the HBL, they will be athletes, students, and businessmen. Having the AAB as a resource will make that transition easier and more successful."
The HBL is the first college basketball league to compensate and educate its athletes. The league will begin play in June 2020 with an inaugural schedule of eight teams in East Coast cities spanning the Mid-Atlantic and Piedmont regions. With its athlete-centric model, the HBL does not have traditional team owners, opting instead for coupling investor-operator groups and team ambassadors.
HBL COO David West said, "The AAB has more professional experience than any blueblood program can offer. Unlike those programs, we will encourage our athletes to work with the people who know how to transition to the next level and be successful on and off the court."
On joining the AAB, CJ Watson said, "I agreed to join because I believe in the league's vision and path they are developing for the betterment of college athletes. To give these young kids a different outlet and opportunity to achieve their goals and dreams without being exploited is a blessing. For me, it is truly an honor to be chosen for the athlete advisory board to mentor and give advice to these athletes."
Mitch Richmond added, "I've had the honor of winning a gold medal, being named Rookie of the Year, and being inducted into the Hall of Fame. Having been so blessed, this is my chance to pay it forward to the next generation of basketball players, to help them blaze a new trail that was not there for me. These men have already accomplished a lot in their young careers and I look forward to working with them as they go on to even greater things in the HBL and beyond."
June has been a busy month for the HBL. In addition to bringing Owens on board and creating the Athlete Advisory Board, the HBL announced it was launching its 2020 season in eight cities: Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington D.C., Richmond, Norfolk, Raleigh, Charlotte, and Atlanta.
Before the HBL, basketball players were excluded from the lion's share of financial benefits while everyone around them received significant compensation. The HBL provides a new and better opportunity, one without economic and academic exploitation. The HBL's players are projected to earn between $50,000 and $150,000 per season based on athletic talent and marketability, in addition to receiving a guaranteed scholarship and having the ability to fully commercialize their name, image, and likeness, all without jeopardizing their eligibility with the HBL.
Volante emphasized today's announcement is just the beginning of a busy run-up to the league's 2020 launch: "The HBL is launching in one year's time and as an organization we spend every day focused on the next step towards a successful launch. The success of the HBL revolves around our ability to recruit elite players and produce an entertaining product for fans. The AAB is an essential part of that recruitment process and the HBL's overall positioning with players and their families. With elite players, we are going to change the way college sports are viewed in the US, end the Amateurism con, and allow college athletes to earn and learn at the same time."
Volante and West promised more news in the coming weeks and months as the league plans to roll out team names and logos, announce head coaches, as well as to provide further details of sponsorships and partnerships as the HBL moves toward its June 2020 launch.