By Joseph Santoliquito
Philadelphia, PA (CBS) —They all seem to possess that rare combination of athletic basketball skills and good looks. Philadelphia doesn’t have a team in the WNBA, but it looks like it will have one in the fledgling BBA, an acronym for the Bikini Basketball Association.
It’s a five-team league that will play an eight-game schedule, featuring the Illinois Heart, Miami Spice, Las Vegas Fantasy, Houston Inferno and Philadelphia Diamonds, who will open their season at 4 p.m. on Saturday, June 29 against visiting Houston, at the Competitive Edge Complex in King of Prussia.
But “bikini basketball” is a bit of a misnomer. These players aren’t exactly running around in thongs and stringy tops. It’s more like spandex basketball, since the player uniforms consist of a sports bra and spandex shorts. The other misnomer is if you’re looking for swimsuit models who just happen to play basketball, you’ll be disappointed. Most of the players are between their early-to-late 20s and they all have varied basketball experience, ranging from playing professionally in Europe to Division III.
“It’s a mid- to low-Division I level of basketball, and some of our players played professionally in Europe and they’re all local,” said Al Trotter, the owner and President of the Diamonds. “We have Stephanie Orji, who played and was a standout athlete at Cheyney, and Carlene Hightower, who played locally for [Archbishop Prendergast] and La Salle, before she played professionally in Europe. So there is some talent there. We don’t want it to be a spectacle. Across the league, the goal is to put on entertaining, quality basketball and bring some femininity and beauty to the game that hasn’t been there.”
It doesn’t hurt, however, that many of the players are very attractive. Trotter’s hope is that once fans see these a game, they’ll see that they actually can play basketball. Trotter also stressed that the uniforms were cut so it’s not exactly like the Lingerie Football League.
Orji, 24, was a 5-foot-9 shooting guard out of Cheyney and received a few offers to play professionally in Europe, but turned them down to pursue a graduate degree. She played in the lingerie football league and wanted to give this a shot.
She also knows part of the lure being sold: curvaceous women running up and down a basketball court.
The league’s website bills itself as women “selected based on athleticism, personality, as well as beauty. The combination of these traits will help the BBA athletes stand out in their respective communities … Prepare for one of the sexiest and most exciting new associations to “TAKE THE WORLD BY STORM,” get ready for the Bikini Basketball Association (BBA).”
“Even though we play in sexy uniforms, there are still true athletes on our team; we want to be taken seriously, but I’m pretty sure people will pass judgment anyway,” Orji said. “It doesn’t hurt that some of us are attractive and in shape. But the sky is the limit where this thing can go. It has a lot of potential.”
Trotter has kept the roster filled with tri-state area players. There is a wait-and-see approach to this new league. Lingerie football received an initial good reception, and the expectation is that this league could be an alternative. Trotter said he already has a schedule set for next year.
“We’re not trying to compete with the WNBA,” Trotter admitted, “but we are trying to show you can compete in basketball and be feminine at the same time.”
Joseph Santoliquito is a contributing sports blogger for CBS Philly.