“It’s almost a more authentic version of [basketball].”
That intersection is what led Elie Maroun to start a brand new league that’s disrupting the industry. Both Maroun and Samuels sat down with me to talk about Maroun’s groundbreaking “The Crew League,” and its unique convergence of basketball and hip hop.
The Crew League is a tournament where hip hop artists and their crews face off, with $100,000 at stake. And it has some unique game play rules to make it more engaging. For example, it’s a 4-on-4 that takes place on a smaller court. So games are quicker and faster than in the NBA, meaning there’s always action.
The other defining feature about TCL is that these celebrity artists are playing alongside their own personal entourage – their manager, security guard, cousin, etc. TCL is currently in Season 2, with artists such as Chris Brown, Jason Derulo, and G-Eazy heading up their own squads. And guys in their crew – who usually aren’t in the public eye – get a chance to shine on the hardwood.
Elie Maroun, himself, was part of such a crew back in the day. He was Sean “Diddy” Combs’ day-to-day manager for seven years. And after starting his own media company, starting a non-profit, and running numerous campaigns, Maroun is extremely well-connected. The idea for The Crew League actually came to him when he was playing basketball at The Weeknd’s house.
When Maroun blocked The Weeknd’s shot into the neighbor’s yard.
The Weeknd’s entourage stared at Elie, as if it was a crime to commit such an unspeakable act. But that’s the beauty of basketball, Maroun realized. Everyone’s on a level playing field on the court. It doesn’t matter if you’ve won 3 Grammys and sold 75 million records, or if you only sing to your shower head. Everyone’s fair game.
Maroun took that concept and created The Crew League. In Season 1, he had artists such as Jack Harlow, Swae Lee, and Russ heading up their own teams, with Swae Lee taking home the Season 1 crown. It had the basketball and hip hop worlds buzzing, with everyone turning in to Revolt, the black-owned cable network founded by Diddy.
As the newly-minted CEO of Revolt, Detavio Samuels believes that The Crew League lines up perfectly with what Revolt is trying to do.
“We want to be disruptive in ways that can shape and move culture,” Detavio Samuels told me. “We think The Crew League is disruptive.”
In an era where content is pumped out by the second, fresh and new ideas can feel lacking. It’s easier than ever for content to get lost in the mix if it’s not disruptive. And that’s exactly what Elie Maroun and Detavio Samuels believe The Crew League is doing: disrupting the status quo, and driving culture along the way.
One of the main differences between TCL and the NBA is that TCL’s players get to be unboxed and rebellious. After a Season 2 game, Chris Brown was openly smoking in the post-game press conference – an act that would be frowned upon in the NBA. Players get to be themselves in The Crew League, and in this social media age of relatable celebrities, viewers get a glimpse into the real, authentic lives of these rappers and their crews.
The new concept has hip hop artists lining up to take part. Maroun noted that he’s had numerous top-tier rappers and pop stars reach out to him, as they’re starting to realize what The Crew League is doing for culture. Of having artists and their friends go unscripted and playing basketball together – in a time when both hip hop and basketball are major players in pop culture.
One example is Austin McBroon, a YouTube star, who took part in a recent Vegas boxing match. He was paid millions of dollars for the pay-per-view event. Yet McBroom joined Tyga’s squad in TCL for free. Similarly, DDG recently agreed to a much-hyped boxing match for millions of dollars. But headed up his own squad in TCL, also for free.
Regardless of how many big names are a part of The Crew League, it’s inevitably shaping and moving culture. It’s given viewers a chance to watch their favorite hip hop artists engage with their friends. While trash talking re-hashing old beef with other hip hop artists. All while playing some fast-paced basketball.
“You can’t see a basketball team that doesn’t represent the hip hop lifestyle,” Detavio Samuels asserted. Hip hop and basketball have been, and always will be, intertwined. Just peep LeBron, or any NBA superstar, with their crew, Samuels pointed out. And you’ll see the tattoos, the earrings, the sneakers, and the Beats headphones.
The Crew League aims to be the perfect blend of both cultures. And a perfect example of where basketball and hip hop can go together.
Elie Maroun explained that his whole motivating force in life is to help others to succeed. To see others become great. Similarly, Samuels is an impact player, and is always thinking about how he can make an impact in today’s culture.
With their partnership and with the unique and groundbreaking concept of The Crew League, both men are doing just that. They’re not sitting back and seeing where culture takes them. They’re driving it.