by Craig Allen Brown
Jahi “Jah” Rawlings has taken the tenets of community, competition and entrepreneurship, and fused them into an exceptional product called the Atlanta Entertainment Basketball League (AEBL).
The AEBL is a summer pro-am basketball league that runs 8-10 weeks, which features some of the most talented NBA, college and high school players in the world. Past participants in the AEBL include the Atlanta Hawks’ Trae Young, the Boston Celtics’ Jaylen Brown, the Brooklyn Nets’ Kyrie Irving and the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Anthony Edwards, to name only a few.
The level of talent that competes yearly at the AEBL is only one aspect that makes the league so intriguing. Rawlings’ embrace of Atlanta as a cultural catalyst for the rest of the country has allowed him to partner with other powerful organizations. One of those organizations is Adidas.
Recently, Rawlings and Adidas entered into a multiyear agreement that will allow Adidas to serve as the official outfitter of the AEBL and its athletes. ReeCee Hollans, Adidas’ Head of Grassroots Basketball, cited Rawlings’ grasp of cultural influence and love of community as key assets to the partnership.
“When we think culture, AEBL is the first league or the first influential basketball space in Atlanta that you think about,” Hollans said. “We’re really, really big on community and grassroots. [Rawlings] and everybody who pours into and invests into the AEBL is so connected to the Atlanta community. So, it was a no-brainer in regard to who we wanted to partner with.”
Hollans further noted that Adidas’ connections with Atlanta-area Edwards, Sandy Creek and Sprayberry high schools, along with Georgia Tech, were important when uniting with AEBL, which further fortified the current Adidas-Atlanta connection.
“AEBL was an easy choice,” Hollans responded, when asked why the recent signing was important to Adidas. “We feel extremely blessed to be able to partner with such an influential league.”
Red Bull is another key player that has recognized the value of Rawlings and his AEBL. The energy drink giant has sponsored the Red Bull 3X, a three-on-three basketball tournament executed in partnership with USA Basketball. Red Bull will also conduct its Summer Runs, a series of three-on-three basketball games co-organized by Rawlings, that will feature eight weeks of basketball games played at the Overtime Elite Arena.
Despite 10 years of success and rapid growth with the league, Rawlings is not slowing down. In fact, his progress to date appears to be just the beginning for him and his team.
Rawlings is intent on making the AEBL one of the best, if not the best, basketball leagues in the country. To achieve this goal, he has recently launched AEBLW, a woman’s basketball league. This division of AEBL has already worked with prominent Atlanta-area women basketball players, such as LSU-signee Flau’jae Johnson and senior Kell High School point guard Crystal Henderson.
“There’s no women’s league in the country that’s competing with us,” said Rawlings.
Rawlings has also recently established Jr. AEBL, a youth-basketball program for kids ages 5-16. Further, Rawlings created the HBCU Elite 100, a pipeline designed to give opportunities for high school athletes to compete at HBCUs.
With over $200,000 invested in AEBL, and more than 50,000 kids involved with the program, Rawlings has created a way to have a significant, positive impact on his community. He takes pride in creating opportunities for the city’s residents, as well as creating some of the city’s most entertaining and engaging basketball events. But more than that, he’s proud of his team, and the legacy that is unfolding in front of his children’s eyes.
“My babies are watching me,” he said. “I want to leave my legacy to them.”
The 2022 AEBL season began on July 2; subsequent games will run for the next nine weeks. Games are played at the KIPP Atlanta Collegiate gymnasium on Saturdays and Sundays, from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. There is no cost for parking or admission.