The Basketball Tournament

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The Basketball Tournament
Most recent season or competition:
The Basketball Tournament 2020
The Basketball Tournament logo.png
FounderJonathan Mugar
No. of teams24 (2020 tournament)
CountriesUnited States
Most recent
Golden Eagles (2020)
Most titlesOverseas Elite (4)
TV partner(s)ESPN
Tournament formatSingle-elimination

The Basketball Tournament (TBT) is an open-application, single-elimination tournament played each summer in the United States. The 2020 edition featured 24 teams with a $1 million winner-take-all prize, broadcast by ESPN.[1] TBT was founded in 2014 by Jonathan Mugar.[2]


Teams in TBT are arranged by the general manager, sometimes based on which schools the players attended and which teams they had experience competing for. While the tournament has had as many as 97 teams, it had 72 in 2018, and had 64 in 2019.[3][4] In the 64-team format used in 2019, teams were divided into eight regionals, all of which were seeded, with each regional hosted by one of the participating teams; these teams were pre-selected before the open application period.[3] The 2020 edition has a field of 24, with the top eight seeds receiving first-round byes.

The championship prize money was originally $500,000 in 2014,[2] was increased to $1 million in 2015, and was $2 million from 2016 through 2019. The 2020 prize amount was set at $1 million. The prize money goes to the winning team's personnel, and an additional 10% of that amount goes to its top fans.[5] The 2019 tournament was the first to offer prizes other than the main winner-take-all prize; each regional winner received 25% of their region's ticket proceeds.[3]

Overseas Elite (in white) during the 2017 title game
Tournament field by year
Year Field size Finals location Winner's prize
2014 32 teams Boston $500,000
2015 97 teamsdagger The Bronx $1,000,000
2016 64 teams $2,000,000
2017 64 teamsdouble-dagger Baltimore
2018 72 teams
2019 64 teams Chicago
2020 24 teams Columbus $1,000,000

dagger Defending champion received a play-in to the round-of-16
double-dagger Four teams in the field of 64 select via a 16-team two-round play-in


TBT uses a modified version of NCAA men's basketball rules. As of the 2019 edition, the most significant exceptions are:[6]

  • Games are played in 9-minute quarters instead of 20-minute halves (or the 10-minute quarters of the NCAA women's game).
  • Players foul out upon their 6th personal foul (instead of 5th).
  • Bonus free throws follow NCAA women's and FIBA rules, with two free throws on the 5th and subsequent non-shooting fouls by the defense in a quarter. An exception to this rule will be added for the 2020 tournament; any foul during the Elam Ending (see below) that would result in bonus free throws will instead give the non-fouling team one free throw and possession of the ball.[7]
  • FIBA rules on basket interference are followed, except on free throws. Once the ball hits the rim on a field goal attempt, any player on either team can play the ball, regardless of the direction in which it is moving or its position relative to the basket. The only exception is that no player on either team may touch a shot that was in the air at the time the game clock expired for any quarter, even if the ball has touched the rim, as long as it has a chance to enter the basket.[8]
  • Replay review is governed by NCAA rules, with one modification—any review allowed only in the last 2 minutes of a game under NCAA rules is allowed in TBT only if either team is within 3 points of the Elam Ending target score.
  • Due to the adoption of the Elam Ending for all games, there is no overtime.

Elam Ending[edit]

In 2017, the tournament's play-in games utilized "Elam Ending" rules, devised by Ball State University professor Nick Elam. Pursuant to the Elam Ending, the game clock is turned off at the first whistle with up to four minutes remaining. The teams then play to a target score, with the shot clock still enforced. As the first team to meet or exceed the target score wins, there are no overtime games. Since the 2018 edition, the Elam Ending has been used in all games.[9] Originally, the target score was seven points more than team leading or tie score;[10] since 2019, the target score is eight points more than the leading team's/tied score.[6] The winning score can be a walk-off field goal, three-point shot, or free throw.

A rule change for the 2020 tournament was made in order to make a game-ending free throw slightly less likely. If the defensive team commits a non-shooting foul during the Elam Ending with the offensive team in the bonus, the offense receives one free throw plus possession. According to TBT organizers, this eliminated an incentive for teams to foul in one specific situation—when the defense could reach the target score with a free throw or two-point basket while the offense needed a three-pointer. The idea for this change came from a user that Elam interacted with on a message board.[7]

Through the 2019 tournament, Jeremy Pargo of Overseas Elite was the TBT leader in making game-winning shots during the Elam Ending, with five[11] (in the 2018 and 2019 tournaments, Overseas Elite won a total of 10 games). During TBT 2020, Golden Eagles forward Jamil Wilson tied his record.


TBT has had a number of current and former NBA players participate, including Hakim Warrick, Jason Williams, Dahntay Jones, Mike Bibby, Royal Ivey, Matt Bonner, and Brian Scalabrine.[12][13] Former WNBA player Nikki Teasley played in the 2014 tournament.[14] The 2018 tournament included the basketball return of Greg Oden, who last played in the Chinese Basketball Association during their 2015–16 season.[15] The 2019 tournament had been expected to be the first to feature a currently active female professional. Megan Gustafson, who had been cut by the Dallas Wings before the 2019 WNBA season, was slated to play for Iowa United, a team made up primarily of alumni of the state's four NCAA Division I schools.[16] However, due to a rash of early-season injuries on the team, the Wings re-signed her in mid-June, ruling her out of TBT.[17]

Many teams feature professional players reunited under a former college or university name, with teams representing Arkansas, Bradley, Cincinnati, Georgetown, Gonzaga, Iowa State, Kansas State, Marquette, Marshall, Milwaukee, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Purdue, Seton Hall, Syracuse, Texas Tech, UCLA, VCU, and many others. Teams have received fan support from active NBA players such as Kyle Lowry.[14]

In 2016, NBA players such as John Wall, Kristaps Porzingis, Rudy Gay, Shaun Livingston, Chandler Parsons, and Austin Rivers served as boosters for different teams.[18] In 2017, Carmelo Anthony acted as host for the tournament in Baltimore, where he played high school basketball.[19] 2019 saw even more NBA involvement, with Chris Paul (Team CP3) and DeMarcus Cousins (Loyalty Is Love) both entering teams, while Bobby Portis and Andre Drummond coached TBT sides.

Ram Nation advancing its name on the bracket

Bracket celebration[edit]

At the conclusion of each game, the winning team advances its placard on a giant bracket to the next round. The bracket resembles the All Valley Karate Tournament bracket found in The Karate Kid.[20]

After pleas from ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla, Yahoo Sports columnist Jeff Eisenberg, and SportsCenter host Scott Van Pelt,[21] the NCAA adopted the ritual for March Madness in 2018.[22][23] After the game, a portable bracket was brought into the winning team's locker room. One player, or a group of players, advanced the team to the next round. Oftentimes, the celebration was posted on social media.[24] The bracket celebration also took place in the Frozen Four of the 2018 NCAA Hockey Tournament.[25]


On June 28, 2014, Notre Dame Fighting Alumni won the inaugural TBT championship, defeating Team Barstool, 72–68. The winning team, represented by several former Fighting Irish players, including MVP Tyrone Nash,[26] donated $40,000 to Coaches vs. Cancer.[14]

On August 2, 2015, Overseas Elite defeated Team 23, 67–65, to take the second annual TBT title.[27] D. J. Kennedy, who played college basketball for St. John's, was named MVP.[28]

2014 MVP Tyrone Nash

Overseas Elite was able to repeat as TBT champions by defeating Team Colorado, 77–72, on August 2, 2016, to claim the $2 million prize; Arizona alumnus Kyle Fogg was named MVP.[29]

On August 3, 2017, Overseas Elite beat Team Challenge ALS, 86–83, to become three-time TBT champions, with Fogg again being named MVP.[30]

On August 3, 2018, Overseas Elite won their fourth consecutive final, defeating Eberlein Drive, 70–58,[31] with D. J. Kennedy being named MVP for the second time.[32]

The 2019 final was played on August 6 between two teams consisting mainly of alumni of single NCAA Division I programs, with Carmen's Crew (Ohio State) defeating Golden Eagles (Marquette), 66–60.[33] William Buford of Carmen's Crew was named MVP.

The 2020 final, played on July 14 in Columbus, Ohio, matches Golden Eagles, appearing in their second consecutive TBT title game, and Sideline Cancer, who defeated four-time champion Overseas Elite to reach their first title game. The game was won by Golden Eagles, 78–73. Darius Johnson-Odom of the Golden Eagles was named MVP.

Year Champion Score Runner-up MVP
2014 Notre Dame Fighting Alumni 72–68 Team Barstool Tyrone Nash
2015 Overseas Elite 67–65 Team 23 D. J. Kennedy
2016 Overseas Elite 77–72 Team Colorado Kyle Fogg
2017 Overseas Elite 86–83 Team Challenge ALS
2018 Overseas Elite 70–58 Eberlein Drive D. J. Kennedy
2019 Carmen's Crew 66–60 Golden Eagles William Buford
2020 Golden Eagles 78–73 Sideline Cancer Darius Johnson-Odom

Championship game records[edit]

Justin Burrell advancing Overseas Elite's name on the bracket after winning the 2017 championship
Team Appearances Record Years (won / lost)
Overseas Elite 4 4–0 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018
Golden Eagles 2 1–1 2019, 2020
Carmen's Crew 1 1–0 2019
Notre Dame Fighting Alumni 1 1–0 2014
Team Barstool 1 0–1 2014
Team 23 1 0–1 2015
Team Colorado 1 0–1 2016
Team Challenge ALS 1 0–1 2017
Eberlein Drive 1 0–1 2018
Sideline Cancer 1 0–1 2020


  1. ^ Carcieri, Carmine (June 16, 2020). "TBT 2020: What to know about every team in the 24-team bracket". Retrieved July 4, 2020.
  2. ^ a b Lowe, Zach. "Welcome to The Basketball Tournament, a $500K Winner-Take-All Extravaganza". Grantland. Retrieved July 13, 2015.
  3. ^ a b c "TBT Announces Regional, Championship Sites for 2019" (Press release). The Basketball Tournament. January 29, 2019. Retrieved May 30, 2019.
  4. ^ "TBT Announces Nine Host Sites for 2020" (Press release). The Basketball Tournament. February 18, 2020. Retrieved March 5, 2020.
  5. ^ "About TBT". 2018. Retrieved August 6, 2019.
  6. ^ a b "The Basketball Tournament: 2019 Official Rules and Regulations". 2019. Retrieved May 30, 2019.
  7. ^ a b Lowe, Zach (March 4, 2020). "The Basketball Tournament changing rules to curb free throws ending game". Retrieved March 4, 2020.
  8. ^ "Rule 5, Article 31: Goaltending and interference" (PDF). Official Basketball Rules 2018. FIBA. January 2019. p. 35. Retrieved March 7, 2020.
  9. ^ Lowe, Zach (June 18, 2018). "New kind of crunch time has NBA luminaries excited". Retrieved June 21, 2018.
  10. ^ Passan, Jeff (June 11, 2018). "10 Degrees: The Mensa member's idea that can solve almost all of baseball's problems". Yahoo Sports. Retrieved June 11, 2018.
  11. ^ "FAQ". 2020. Retrieved July 17, 2020.
  12. ^ Duffy, Thomas. "The Basketball Tournament 2015: Dates, Schedule, Bracket and Players". Bleacher Report. Retrieved 13 July 2015.
  13. ^ "Grantland". Retrieved 13 July 2015.
  14. ^ a b c "2014 Recap". Retrieved 13 July 2015.
  15. ^ Nathan, Alec (July 27, 2018). "Greg Oden Goes for 11 and 5 in Return to Court at the Basketball Tournament". Bleacher Report. Retrieved July 28, 2018.
  16. ^ Jackson, Melanie (May 28, 2019). "Gustafson, cut by WNBA's Wings, to play in TBT". Retrieved May 30, 2019.
  17. ^ "Injury-riddled Wings re-sign Iowa's Gustafson". Associated Press. June 14, 2019. Retrieved June 20, 2019.
  18. ^ "Wall, Porzingis, Cruz all to participate in #TBT2016 - The Basketball Tournament".
  19. ^ Walker, Childs (August 2, 2017). "Carmelo Anthony returns home to Baltimore 'at peace' with himself". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved July 28, 2018.
  20. ^ Aldridge, David (August 3, 2015). "Hoops tournament gives fresh life to an old-school concept". Retrieved March 5, 2019.
  21. ^ David Worlock [@DavidWorlock] (8 Jul 2017). "Love the idea. Running it by co-workers" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  22. ^ Bonesteel, Matt (August 10, 2017). "NCAA tournament game winners will get to advance themselves on a really big bracket". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 5, 2019.
  23. ^ "NCAA Tournament To Adopt TBT Bracket Celebration - The Basketball Tournament".
  24. ^ Villanova MBB [@NovaMBB] (1 Apr 2018). "🎥: @d_cosby2 making it official! #NationalChampionship #FinalFour #LetsMarchNova" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  25. ^ NCAA Ice Hockey [@NCAAIceHockey] (8 Apr 2018). "OFFICIALLY OFFICIAL @UMDMensHockey 2018 NATIONAL CHAMPIONS #FrozenFour" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  26. ^ Johnson, Raphielle (June 28, 2014). "Notre Dame Fighting Alumni win first annual $500,000 basketball tournament". NBC Sports. Retrieved July 27, 2018.
  27. ^ Ryan, Kevin. "Team wins $1 million in winner-take-all hoops tournament". Retrieved 2 August 2015.
  28. ^ "Errick McCollum, Overseas Elite take home $2 million prize for winning The Basketball Tournament". August 2, 2016. Retrieved July 27, 2018.
  29. ^ Bartel, Jason (August 2, 2016). "Kyle Fogg earns MVP, Championship in The Basketball Tournament". Retrieved July 27, 2018.
  30. ^ Kelapire, Ryan (August 3, 2017). "Kyle Fogg named MVP in Overseas Elite's three-peat in The Basketball Tournament". Retrieved July 27, 2018.
  31. ^ Fominykh, Katherine (August 3, 2018). "Overseas Elite tops Eberlein Drive for fourth straight The Basketball Tournament title and $2 million". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved August 4, 2018.
  32. ^ "TBT 2018 All-Tournament Team". August 3, 2018. Retrieved August 4, 2018.
  33. ^ Murphy, Patrick (August 6, 2019). "Lighty, Buford, Diebler lead Carmen's Crew to TBT championship". Retrieved August 6, 2019.

External links[edit]