LANCASTER – The Los Angeles Slam, an American Basketball Association (ABA) team, is the first professional team to come to the Antelope Valley.
“We’re providing affordable, quality entertainment to the community,” said Donald Sanchez, owner and head coach of LA Slam.
Tony Farmer, former NBA player, has been on the team since 2008.
“This is just a different way of life,” Farmer said. “A lot of these guys are trying to have an opportunity here. A guy like myself is just playing to keep in shape.”
Cory Arnett, another former NBA player, started playing for LA Slam after initially helping out by keeping stats. Arnett said there are two main differences in playing for an NBA team and an ABA team.
“The money is different and the atmosphere is different, but it’s still the same thing,” he said. “It’s still basketball. Of course there’s less fans here, but there’s people that want to see NBA players.”
Arnett said the LA Slam coming to Lancaster benefits people who can’t travel to see the Lakers or the Clippers or afford the tickets.
“They can come here for $12 and see some NBA players and some good basketball,” Arnett added.
Creating the team and recruiting players, especially those from the NBA, was a major process for Sanchez who spent five years building his team.
“I think if you have a first-class operation and you have something that people are proud of, it attracts high quality individuals,” he said. “And I think that once one comes aboard, then two and three, then it gets easier each time because people are saying maybe there’s something special here.”
Since moving the team to Lancaster in May 2011, Sanchez said the priorities for LA Slam have changed.
“It’s more about Antelope Valley now,” Sanchez said. “I feel that I don’t want to let the city down. I want to bring a championship to the city. Every time we lose a game, I feel like I let down the city and that I let down my guys.”
Coming to the Antelope Valley was not easy to execute because of the extra costs, Sanchez said.
“It’s a task I didn’t know if I could be successful at because to get former NBA players who have made $40 million or $50 million to drive 100 miles out here and to drive back, that’s a very hard thing to do. But to get eight of them, or 10 of them is another thing,” he said. “So I’ve been pretty lucky that I’ve been able to bring them over here into the community.”
LA Slam has adopted Antelope Valley Christian High School as their home gym. In return, part of the team’s funds goes back to the athletic department.
“It’s a great way to be involved in the community,” Sanchez said. “We love this school. They’ve been great to us.”
Sanchez said the team will also bring a lot of economical benefits to the Antelope Valley.
“As far as hotels and restaurants and gas stations and shops, it benefits them,” Sanchez said. “And the more we bring events here and international events, the more it’s going to help. I know my guys; their future is relying on the organization and the city. Although the city doesn’t know it, we have an opportunity to spawn a lot of positive city growth.”
Through global initiatives, international teams will play games in the United States. They will also have a player exchange program where international players come to the U.S. and play on an ABA team.
Sanchez is hosting the 2012 World Basketball Cup either in Las Vegas or Los Angeles. He says, ultimately, he would like to bring it to the Antelope Valley.
“I’m in charge of the Western United States for ABA Global,” Sanchez said. “I’m a critical part in every phase of it, the planning [and] the execution… if the Antelope Valley can support some of the plans we have for the future, then I’m gonna try my best to bring it to the Antelope Valley.”
The next home game for the LA Slam is Tuesday Jan. 17 at 7:30 p.m. at Antelope Valley Christian High School.