BBL & WBBL: Return of the All-Stars - Jay Kinyera's perspective

As part of Basketball England's Future Youth Committee - BE's youth-led initiative designed to better connect with young people to shape the future of basketball - Jay Kinyera was invited to represent BE at the British Basketball League All-Star weekend and watch the best of the BBL and WBBL battle it out for bragging rights. 

When he's not providing content for BE's channels, Kinyera is a development manager at Access Sport, where he manages the Changing Sports Basketball programme, focusing on social inclusion.

He supports the development, growth and sustainability of community basketball clubs and groups to enhance their offer to engage more disadvantaged and disabled children and young people.

Kinyera has played football at a professional level and basketball at a national level, although basketball has been his passion for nearly 10 years and will continue to be forever. 

I was invited to the British Basketball League All-Star games to represent Basketball England, where 20 men and 22 women battled it out for their respective titles at the infamous Copper Box on the 17 March 2024.

British basketball fans will agree that it’s amazing to see the All-Star weekend back after its long hiatus, as British Basketball League CEO Aaron Radin remarked, "it's something out fans have been asking for... and demonstrated yet another pillar of growth in our league." 

Myself, Grant Igbokwe, Ryan Bound, and Kizzy Spence spent the day gathering content, and filming interviews while soaking up the amazing atmosphere that basketball never fails to bring.

Grant and I even got onto the court during the dunk contest, which blessed us with an amazing view of the show and a few seconds of fame in the background of some hard-hitting dunks televised on Sky Sports. 

The players for the men's game was evenly split, with half from the northern teams, including the Caledonia Gladiators, Newcastle Eagles, Cheshire Phoenix, Manchester Giants, and Sheffield Sharks. Then the other half came from the southern teams: the London Lions, Bristol Flyers, Surrey Scorchers, Leicester Riders, and Plymouth City Patriots.

Fans were also treated to a Slam Dunk contest, a 3-point contest, and a mascot vs kids skills contest, where the kids held their own with an easy win! And if you were lucky enough to attend, you might’ve even gotten yourself a free shirt or learned some skills from basketball freestyler Tarryn Algar. 

Commonwealth Games silver medallist Georgia Anderson conducts the point. Image - Peter Simmons

Impressive dunks

The Slam Dunk Contest was won by the London Lions Centre Josh Sharma, with some impressive and high-scoring dunks, which is ironic as he nonchalantly told us in an interview before the contest that he "wasn’t the most creative person in the world."

Fun fact: In the 90s, the event was known as the Dairylea Dunkers All-Star Games.

Josh’s teammate Matt Morgan then won the 3-point contest by a narrow margin. Aaryn Rai put up a good fight as he hit 10 threes in a row before missing his final Moneyball shot, which would have tied him up with Morgan. 

The men's game continued to show the South's dominance, as they won comfortably, 149–116. Reigning Canadian Elite Basketball League MVP Teddy ‘Buckets’ Allen earned himself the MVP award after stuffing the stat sheet with 31 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists.

Entertainment was the name of the game, which meant defence didn’t play a big part, but it’s hard for that to be a problem when you’ve got people doing alley-oops, windmills, long-range 3-pointers, and running left-handed sky hooks.

Manchester Giants' Jamell Anderson gets up for Team North. Image - Peter Simmons

Inaugural WBBL All-Star Game

The weekend also marked the inaugural WBBL All-Star Game, which was won by Team South 99-81, led by captain Temi Fagbenle, who bagged herself MVP with a game-high 20 points on 9-11 shooting.

The addition of the WBBL All-Star game demonstrates the growth of women's professional basketball in the UK, something I’m thrilled to see, as Access Sport's development manager for basketball, where my work focuses on social inclusion.

I discussed this further with GB international and Commonwealth Games silver medal winner Shanice Beckford-Norton, who told me that when she was growing up WNBL D1 basketball was the highest level for women and girls, but since then the WBBL was created and now there's an All-Star game too.

She believes that women and girls across both the country and the world 'need to continue to see this so they can be encouraged to push beyond any barriers'. 

The All-Star games are another piece of evidence that show the growth of British basketball, and ultimately, it is the role of all of us to grow the game for future generations so that they have better quality, more inclusive, and more accessible basketball in their lives, so let’s keep up the hard work. 

Main image - Jay Kinyera (far left)