After many decades of the same lackluster regular season game events, professional basketball in Kenya is finally undergoing a much needed renovation. The Code Red Friday Night basketball initiative blends the entertainment values of live basketball games with live DJ and artiste music and curtain raising events like dunking and free throw competitions.
One of Kenya’s highly rated DJ outfits, the Code Red DJ’s will provide the music and also emcee the event. Many of Kenya’s leading artistes including Madtraxx, Octopizzo and MC Pointblank will be scheduled to make live appearances.
The event is scheduled for the last Friday of every month of the regular season and festivities begin at 6pm under the floodlights at the Nyayo basketball gymnasium. The night will feature two games, the last game slated as the marquee matchup of the night between two Classic league teams. Charges for the evening are expected to be Sh. 200.
I sat down with my main man Peter Kiganya, a player with Co-op Bank and also an organizer of the event to get his thoughts on the event.
How did the idea of the Code Red basketball first come about? What was the initial response from the KBF office?
We were looking to do something different. We wanted to create a lively atmosphere around basketball and give more people the opportunity to a sporting evening out. We wanted it to be a wholesome event, to be about basketball and to have more than just basketball. We approached the KBF and met with the top officials of the federation. We laid out our proposals and they were impressed by the idea and gave us the blessings to do a trial run and see what the response would be.
The reaction from the first Code Red night was tremendous and this proved that it would continue to be a great plan if executed well.
How did you hook up with the Code Red DJ’s?
We are good friends with DJ Stylez (Code Red CEO) who happens to be a great basketball enthusiast and over the past two years we have been trying to do something together. We were both concerned about the fact that the game wasn’t getting the much needed hype in Kenya and looking for ways to increase the fan base of basketball in Kenya. We really got time to talk when we were doing the all star project which is still in the making.
The main thing for us was to do one Friday Night basketball and see how it goes. It turned out to be a thrilling night with an entertaining game between Ulinzi and Strathmore.
Who are involved in the organization of the event?
The Kenya Basketball Federation, CodeRed Entertainment, the Sports Stadia and most recently Protel Studios. The media has also been very helpful in getting the word out there. Not to forget our artistes Maddtraxx, Mc Point Blank, Octopizzo and Odero.
What was the players’ reaction to this new concept?
The players really like the concept. The atmosphere created by the Friday Night Basketball is bringing the best out of the players. We are also looking for more ways that the player can benefit and for now teams will receive DVDS of the game. This way they can see themselves play and be able to see what their team and other teams do well or poorly.
The first Code Red night was very successful both in terms of the basketball entertainment value and the music entertainment. What are your thoughts on that night?
For us it was a pleasant surprise but also a great learning experience. There were a lot of things that we hadn’t factored in. After the game, we were able to analyze where we had failed and what was great about the event. We had to consider things like Friday traffic and competing with other sporting and entertainment events in the city.
We had a feeling that the first night would kick off on a high note. The attendance was not where we expected but the overall response was positive. The previous week had been inter cities basketball and then there was the long Easter holiday and not much had been done in terms of getting the word out.
What was the feedback you received from players and fans regarding that first night?
The feedback was great especially from coaches who actually coached in the first Friday Night game. Fans also hit us up on our Facebook page inquiring as to when the next one would be and giving us ideas of what more we can do with Friday Night basketball.
From a fan perspective, does it add on the value of the event when local music and TV celebrities show up to games?
Most definitely, even in the NBA when the teams play we are always shown who is present at the games as a fan. For instance, if Lakers play and Jack Nicholson is not present, it’s very obvious. I also believe celebrities bring an element of credibility to any event they grace as they are in the limelight. They will not just grace anything that is bad. When they are present at our games, fans see that it is a desired event.
The subsequent Code Red Friday night was just as exciting if not more and it seems to be getting better and better. Are you optimistic that Code Red Friday nights could soon be THE event to go on that particular night?
When we did the first one, we learnt some lessons and this helped us in planning the second one. Yes it’s our goal to make Friday Night basketball the hottest ticket in town and event to attend.
Do you have any plans to diversify the entertainment aspect of the event?
As far as entertainment goes, we definitely don’t want to lose the basketball aspect of the night behind the performances by the artistes and everything else. We want the game itself to drive the entertainment and not the other way around. We want our fans to come to watch mainly to watch and be entertained by the game.
We also plan on having cipher from 6 – 7 to give ample time to the fans to get to the venue.
So far, what has KBF’s role been in the event?
KBF’s role is huge in our success. Without them, we don’t have Friday Night basketball. They run the league and provide games for us for the Friday Night games. They run the basketball side of things by providing referees, scoring officials, venue, scheduling and any other aspect pertaining to the game.
What are your goals moving forward with this event and what could we look forward to in the coming months?
The goal of Code Red Friday night basketball is to increase the basketball fan base and bring out the entertaining aspect of the game.
Our vision is to help see the sport grow in Kenya and we plan to do various camps around the country and take basketball to remote areas around Kenya.
The Code Red basketball is certainly changing things in Kenyan basketball in big ways. I would be remiss if I did not credit Peter Kiganya, his fellow organizers, the Code Red DJ’s and the KBF organization for following through with the idea and making a conscious effort to affect change. Too often, we as players, fans, officials and other interested parties of Kenyan basketball have amazing ideas on how things could be different yet none of these ideas are ever brought to fruition.
The success of the Code Red basketball can only open the door for future initiatives and encourage the rest of us to act on our ideas and be the agents of the change that we seek.
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Grand Slam Comepetition
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