With the NFL spiraling toward a lockout and million-dollar NBA teammates squabbling amongst themselves, Johnson is concerned with what the pros are teaching the rest of us about sports and sportsmanship.
"Some people just love to play, and they’d like to see if they can play at a competitive level and maybe even improve their game," said Johnson, organizer of the CBL, or Community Basketball Leagues (www.cblhoopsusa.com). "It seems like all the pro leagues, and even the colleges, like to focus on is hype, and good talent actually gets pushed away. In their hunt for the next Kobe or the next LeBron, they lose track of guys whose natural ability, teamwork and unselfishness would make them great additions. These are men and women who just love to play for the sake of the game, and it’s a shame that after college, only two percent of them ever get to play in the pros. It’s wrong that many of these talented athletes are prevented from making this game a part of their life after high school or college. Their competitive spirits and their talents need a place to shine."
That’s why Jamar Johnson founded the CBL, which currently has leagues in cities throughout the United States for players ranging literally from toddlers to adults. His view is that these leagues, which cater to both the former collegiate athlete as well as the weekend warrior, can serve as a way for people to continue their involvement in sports and may even serve as a springboard for those who may have missed opportunities earlier in life.
"We’ve actually had a few former high school players get picked up as scholarship athletes on the college level after having been viewed by the scouts who regularly attend games," Johnson said. "That’s not to say that people should join because they think they’re going to get their big break with us. They should play because they love the game, but understand that you never know who’s watching. Does that mean they’ll be ‘discovered’? No, but if they don’t play, they may never know if their futures could have included playing for a school or even a semi-pro or pro league."
Johnson said he sees more sportsmanship and teamwork in his leagues than most people see in the pros today, and it’s because of the CBL’s focus on friendly competition and the community at large.
"Our players aren’t worried about big salaries or their stats," he said. "They play out of love of the game, and their communities. We use the league to help raise funds for local charities and community-based organizations, so when our players play, they aren’t just playing for themselves. They are playing for the betterment of their own communities, as well, and that’s unique these days. As pro leagues become more about the money and the fame than about the sport, when owners and players take turns at proving who is greedier and when ticket prices are so high that the average fan can’t even afford to see a pro game in person anymore, it’s good to see athletes compete in a league that is more focused on the game than on the money."
Johnson is a native Elkhart, IN and former standout on Concord High School’s 1988 and 1990 state runner-up basketball teams. He was also an Indiana High School All-State basketball player in 1990. Johnson went on to lead the University of Nebraska Men’s basketball program to its first ever Big 12 conference tournament championship in 1994 and completed his Bachelor of Science degree in Human Resources and Family Science. From May 1995 to May 1997, Johnson served as an Administrative Graduate Assistant Coach for the University of Nebraska Men’s basketball program. In 1996, Johnson also had a brief stint in the professional Continental Basketball Association (CBA) with the Omaha Racers.