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Berlin Braves 2000: The foundation of community-driven pro basketball

news August 19, 2021
Berlin Braves 2000 professional basketball club and community

When we re-founded the Berlin Braves back in 2012, the goal was to shake up the local sports scene. Give it some colour, open up a few more lanes. Make it louder and prouder. Put culture on pedestal.

Part of that mission included elevating the profile of sports that often got second-tier attention in Germany. We brought Braves baseball to Boston’s iconic Fenway park and played our part in turning running crew culture into a global phenomenon. Ran half-marathons from Europe’s capitals to Soweto. We played basketball with the NBA MVP in his hometown of Athens and spent a day in Kevin Durant’s shoes. We also threw some unforgettable parties.

Much as we’re a sports club, we’re first and foremost an international community. And while words like vibe and energy get thrown around a lot, ultimately, that’s what our community is about. Something special happens when our homies come together, something that’s rare and irreplicable in Berlin. What we cherish most is people showing up in our stands and showing out at our events.

Then the pandemic hit and all of that was interrupted. No more hugs, no HOMIES HALF, basketball dead, mid-season. It sucked, but moping around wasn’t gonna get us anywhere. So we took the opportunity to focus on something we’ve wanted to do for a long time: put competition on par with culture. It was a natural fit to start with basketball. We’ve had some great players don a Braves jersey over the years. In tournaments, at special events, on the street. What we couldn’t do was offer them a league on their level, a place to compete week in and week out. This is Germany, things are complicated. No disrespect to the Drake method but we didn’t wanna bum around the bottom leagues for years before making it to the top. 

In February 2020, basketball shut down across the country. At the time, the BG 2000 men’s team, out of Charlottenburg (that’s in Berlin btw), was playing their first season in the 1. Regionalliga, Germany’s fourth division. That made them the city’s most competitive team after Alba Berlin, who are sitting on back-to-back Bundesliga titles. The season never picked up again, but a long-simmering conversation between us and the BG 2000 boys did. We’d known each other for a long time. After finessing some formalities, we decided to join forces for the next few years, with the first season tipping off on September 18th. The name? Berlin Braves 2000. The aim? Win titles. 

Within a decade, we want to stand shoulder to shoulder with Alba Berlin in Germany’s top division. Right now, we’re three promotions away. It won’t be easy, but we have a solid foundation of talent, support, and sponsorships. On top of that, we’re building an academy for player development and to make sure kids from all backgrounds get a chance to play competitive basketball in their city. We want our homecourt to be a community shrine with an open door to anyone who wants to be a part of the journey. Can’t make it in person? Maybe we’ll bring back Braves TV to broadcast games for our international audience. Stay tuned. Anything is possible

Let’s hear what Madu G. Cole (player and Board Chair), The twins Dube and Amo Paul (players and Board Vice-Chair), Maximilian Göth (General Manager) and Joey Elgersma (Founder and head honcho of the Berlin Braves) have to say…

What’s the vision behind the Braves and BG 2000 team-up? 

DP: Our vision began two years ago when BG 2000 had a chance of advancing into the 1. Regionalliga. My twin brother Amo, Madu, and I saw the potential in having a semi-professional team in the heart of the City-West. At the time you could only play outside of Berlin at either Lok Bernau, RSV Stahnsdorf, or Königswusterhausen. We wanted to give Berlin players the chance to actually play in the city they love. The more we thought and talked with Joey about the project, the more it evolved. Fusing the two could bring something to life that hadn’t been seen before in the traditional construct of German basketball. 

Dube Paul, Berlin Braves 2000 player and Board Vice-Chair
Dube Paul, Berlin Braves 2000 player and Board Vice-Chair

MGC: The Braves is a renowned organization here in Berlin which drives culture and diversity initiatives through sports, and inspires dreamers of all backgrounds to come together, get outside, and get involved. It was a no-brainer to have them be a part of what we are looking to achieve. Together, we will change the landscape of what basketball means not only in Berlin but across Germany.

JE: We just want to f**k things up and win! Do things differently and inspire the next generation. Create a safe and familiar place for the youth where A. You can have fun! B. Play on a high level; C. Become the most creative you! 

What will Berlin Braves 2000 bring to the league that sets it apart from other clubs?

DP: Community! I can’t stress this enough. Every Braves event feels like you’re among friends you’ve known your whole life. It would be so dope to have the same vibe throughout the whole club and at our home games.

MGC: We’re going to play at the highest level Berlin has to offer outside of Alba, Berlin‘s oldest and most prestigious club. We hope to go even higher in the coming years but understand the work it takes to get there. We are BERLIN. As a grassroots club founded in 2000, we bring the strongest talent that the capital has to offer. Although we also have international athletes, we are happy to offer a second “home“ for local hoopers who previously weren’t able to play here competitively. 

Madu G. Cole, Berlin Braves 2000 player and Board Vice-Chair
Madu G. Cole, Berlin Braves 2000 player and Board Vice-Chair

JE: Community. Attitude, style, creativity, perseverance, and a ton of passion. I grew up seeing my old friends Stephane (Pigalle), Duki & Fu (BSTN), Edson & Gee (Patta), etc. build beautiful brands with the same attitude. Do what you love and do it for the right people! That’s what I always tried to do with the Braves and I feel that the 2000 crew truly embraces that. So together we go – ain’t no half steppin’! 

Where are your home games? How will you make this space special?

MGC: Currently, our home games will be played in our original home gym on Zauritzweg. In the coming months, we are looking to play in the more renowned Sömmeringhalle, also known as Sporthalle Charlottenburg. Not only are these two iconic locations in the Berlin hoop scene, but we are also going to make every home game something to look forward to. An event, if you will. I‘m talking about DJs, food & drink, exciting competition, and more. You definitely don’t want to miss what we have in store!

JE: You know how we do! Vibes. 

Which sponsors are on board to help bring it all to life?

MGC: There are some big names joining the charge to make this dream a reality. Some household names, local heroes, and early believers. I can’t disclose the names just yet but announcements are on the way. For now, we can’t wait for our dope uniforms to drop. Keep an eye on the ‘gram.

JE: We are proud of our first partners and will announce them on our media day in September. 

But we are looking for more sponsors that believe in our vision. And, it’s pretty dope to say that you hopped on the Berlin Braves 2000 train from day one. 

Joey Elgersma, Berlin Braves founder and head honcho
Joey Elgersma, Berlin Braves founder and head honcho

How will you attract and develop young talent?

MGC: Performance and professional development are key pillars of our youth initiative. We believe that the best way to impact basketball is to inspire change on and off the court. This begins with an image people can identify and inviting youth into spaces that will influence them for a lifetime. Our diverse athlete pool and fresh merch and attire will foster a connection between our club and young people in the community, inspiring them to pursue whatever dreams they have in their life and career.  

AP: In Berlin, it’s always been tough to develop talent outside of Alba Berlin’s program. I could name a slew of talented players that never made it to the big leagues because they weren’t given a chance by them. We want to offer an alternative to Alba that gives kids who are overlooked the chance to become the best players they can be. I believe the pull factor of being part of a professional family organisation that is active on social media and has a strong visual identity will drive young athletes towards our project.

JE: One of my personal goals is to develop women’s basketball. It’s crazy how lame and how little is done globally and in Germany to promote WBB and to help female athletes within their short careers. We want Berlin Braves 2000 to become the number one destination for WBB. And we need all the help we can get to make this happen! 

Community-building is a major part of this project. Why is this important to you?

MGC: We’re only as strong as the community which backs us. We are a team through and through, and as we look to interlink everything we do with all the faces we represent, the mission is #letswintogether. The most important aspect of being a part of the Braves community is that people should not feel like they are merely members, but FAMILY. 

JE: Community building is the core of everything we do! We are the first community and lifestyle-driven club that is now going into professional sports. I don’t know any other crews or clubs that have taken a similar route. Never forget where you come from. That’s why our community will always remain the most important focus. 

Can you share a bit about the Berlin Braves 2000 Academy?

MGC: The Braves academy goes hand-in-hand with the initiatives mentioned before: performance and professional development. This includes a series of skills development camps, coaching training, presentations and workshop days from our collective professional networks, and more. The true win with the academy is realized when each of our young athletes identifies the various avenues sport allows them to pursue and take on one or more of the many opportunities available to them. 

MG: The goal of our youth camps and teams is twofold: to improve our players and bring joy to curious children so we can introduce them to the world of basketball. An academy that garners attention and attracts newcomers is not just a win for the club but for the sport as a whole.

JE: Our academy will be a place where it’s also about “more than basketball.” We’re introducing an after-school program with new things that trigger the kids and players. We really missed that when we were young: doing cool and creative things with your local heroes that stick with you for the rest of your life. 

Maximilian Göth, Berlin Braves 2000 General Manager

What are some of the challenges you face?

MGC: Building a new club from paper to what it has already become is no easy feat. You start with a dream, write down a few goals, then come up with your plan of action. At first, it can be daunting to execute all the various tasks. But once we were able to present our dream to the early believers of our vision, we were able to build a strong core team and attract a group of advisors/investors. So far we’ve been able to get the ball rolling with a small group of 4-5 people. As our team grows and we begin to see our dreams materialize, we will embrace any and all challenges that come our way. 

JE: There are always growing pains. And I am sure that we will face a lot of narrow-minded and bureaucratic BS along the way. People and organisations that are scared of change can make weird moves but we will stand together, learn from it, and move on. Like we always do! 

What does a successful first season look like?

MGC: We would like to see the fruits of our partnerships and player-focused development and performance initiatives realized. Each season, we set high goals for the organisation at both a club level and team level, which we review on a recurring basis. To be successful in a season, we envision the beginning of our camps, strong performances from each of our teams, fans in the seats, and the overall foundation of our club’s goal of impacting change Germany-wide to be set.

AP: We want people to associate our club with what’s fresh, what’s challenging the status quo; never afraid to take a stand, and willing to open doors. “Berlin Braves 2000 represents the pulse of time,” as my brother, Dube Paul, would say. And I would add, Berlin Braves 2000 is going to be a household name you, your family, friends, and network are going to hear for a very long time! 

MG: Finishing top of the league or at least fighting for promotion would be a positive outcome for the first season. Mostly, it’s about attracting new members, particularly young people and those who become companions on our way to reshaping the basketball landscape and establishing another pro team in the city. 

JE: When we talk next year and we have inspired a whole lot of kids to start playing basketball, it’s good. When the parents understand and embrace our approach, it’s great.  When we build more awareness for WBB in Berlin, it’s excellent. And when we do all that and win together, it will have been an exceptional first year.