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Why the AEBL is important for the culture

Kyrie Irving takes pictures with fans after surprise visit to AEBL on Aug. 19, 2017.
Photo by Rashad Milligan for Steed Media Services

ATLANTA — The Atlanta Entertainment Basketball League (AEBL) is set to host its sixth annual championship today at KIPPS Atlanta Collegiate.

The championship comes a day after Saturday night’s semi-final, where four high school teams, local women all-stars and four AEBL teams competed. For the second straight year, the arena was standing-room only during day one of championship weekend.

“It’s huge because that’s what we’re about,” AEBL founder and CEO Jahi Rawlings said. “We’re about the community, we always want to be able to provide for the community so being able to provide this platform for them to come out for free entertainment, to see NBA players take the court, it’s all love.”

Saturday’s slate of professionals included former Atlanta Dream guard Meighan Simmons, Brandon Goodwin, a guard who played with the Memphis Grizzlies this summer, former Chicago Bulls forward Solomon Jones and the Los Angeles Clippers’  Mike Scott, Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams.

Last year, Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving made a surprise appearance during championship weekend while he was in Atlanta filming “Uncle Drew.” This summer, Irving’s teammate Jaylen Brown has been an active member of the league during his time away from Boston. Former Atlanta Hawks Shelvin Mack, Quinn Cook, Paul Millsap and social media star basketball impersonator B dot A dot played in games this summer as well.

“It’s huge to have those guys come out and support what we’re doing and put on a show for the kids in the community,” Rawlings said. “It’s always huge to have them here. Kyrie said he was coming back, so we’ll see, he might pop in [the championship game Sunday] but it’s good to have the NBA guys come out and show face and show love to the community.”

As previously mentioned, in a true effort to connect with the community, admission to AEBL games is absolutely free. The inspiration for making the event free came from Rawlings growing up in New York and having all of those memories watching all of the premier summer leagues up North.

“Growing up in inner cities, a lot of families and kids are not able to get access to go to Hawks games or to a concert at Philips Arena,” Rawlings said. “So what we want to do is bring that to the community for free.”

Today’s activities begin at 3 p.m. with the Celebrity Influencer Game. The three-point, slam dunk contests and high school championship will follow with the AEBL Championship Game closing out the weekend, tipping off at 6 p.m.