Special to the Suave Report, Joshua Cleary
With his team down three, OKC Thunder guard Deonte Burton dribbled up the court with just a few seconds remaining on the clock. Since Deonte’s fashionably late entrance and decision to immediately sub himself in, all eyes in the gym were locked on him.
So as he had already done multiple times that night, Burton easily blew past his defender with his signature in-and-out dribble, leaving a wide open lane to the basket. Every single person in the gym thought they knew what Burton was about to do. It was only right for the 6’5” 245 pound NBA guard to go up and convert an AND-1 to send the game to overtime. But as Burton drove to the hoop, the defense completely collapsed around him leaving his teammate, Preston Davis, wide open. Burton made the kick out pass and the whole gym hushed for a single moment. Nobody had expected Burton to give the ball up. Deonte’s dominant performance had lead everyone to believe the fate of the game would fall into his own hands. Davis pulled up from about 4 feet behind the high school regulation three-point line. Swish. Nothing but net. The Hive, home of the “Skinz League,” exploded as they began to celebrate and anticipate the 2 minutes of high energy overtime basketball that they had just been gifted. Chris Skinner AKA “Skinz” got up off the bench, “that was your shot Deonte!” he joked from across the court. Deonte just laughed and replied, “Nah man that’s his shot, we all professionals here.”
Starting in 2016, the Skinz League, named after its founder Chris Skinner, aka “Skinz”, was made as an opportunity to showcase high-quality basketball being played in the OKC metro area. With each season starting in May and finishing up in late July, you can find players like former Oklahoma State athlete Stevie Clark, University of Oklahoma Alum Jordan Woodard, as well as current OU basketball star Christian Doolittle, and Deonte Burton all running it up at The Hive Annex in Edmond, Oklahoma. Other players who have competed in the Skinz League include Dakari Johnson and Randy Foye, former OKC Thunder players. Others have become known throughout the league such as brothers Craig and Tevin Foster who play together on A-Team. Coming off of a 44-point combined outing, they have become the best backcourt in the league and fear no one who attempts to slow them down on defense.
The Skinz League’s atmosphere is the biggest thing that sets it apart from others. When Skinz arrives with his wife, who sets up the gate to collect the $2-3 entrance fee, he turns on his playlist which will set the vibe for the players throughout the night, giving the gym a streetball feel. With the bleachers full each night, the baseline walls are constantly lined with spectators who find ways to involve themselves in each game, whether it be talking trash, clapping in players faces or making jokes from across the court. It is also the only professional league where you will see children rush onto the court recording their 40-year-old dad who just called ‘game’ on a shot from the logo to complete a 30-point mercy rule victory (Yes this has actually happened). Yet both teams shake hands and jokingly mock each other’s three-point celebrations as the next game gets ready to begin.
The Skinz League gives each of its players the opportunity to play high-energy basketball against the high-quality competition in a high-quality atmosphere. Whether being a full-time basketball coach, a former college athlete, a high school teacher, a stay-at-home dad, a Euro-league standout, or someone signed to a 2-way contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Skinz League brings Oklahoma’s best basketball players together for two nights a week to celebrate the game as it was made to be played.
Joshua Cleary is a freelance writer and videographer going into his senior year at Mount St Mary High School in Oklahoma City. Joshua plays both baseball and basketball for his high school and plans on continuing to follow his dream of being a student-athlete in college, whether it be on the hardwood or on the pitcher’s mound. You can find more of Joshua’s video work on @JClearoutPROD on Instagram and follow along with his future writing on Twitter at @JoshuaRCleary.