Roundball Classic - Founding


The cofounders of the game, Sonny Vaccaro and Pat DiCesare, were two boyhood friends from the small Western Pennsylvania town of Trafford. Vaccaro was a young school teacher and sports enthusiast who in the early 60s had organized local high school basketball tournaments throughout Pennsylvania. His friend and college roommate Pat DiCesare (future president of DiCesare Engler Productions had made a name for himself by promoting major concert events in Western Pennsylvania. Vaccaro wanted to do a basketball tournament in the Pittsburgh area, and asked DiCesare if he had interest in promoting the event. DiCesare, who had just brought the Beatles to the Pittsburgh Civic Arena, wanted the event to have national appeal and take place in a large venue. So, he encouraged his friend to recruit the best players in the country. The two friends decided that the game would feature high school All-Star players recruited from Pennsylvania against those recruited from the rest of the United States, and it would be played at the Pittsburgh Civic Arena.

Tim Tormey, a friend and business mentor to Pat DiCesare, initiated a meeting between DiCesare and Al Abrams. Abrams was the senior sports editor for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the president of the Dapper Dan Club, a charitable organization associated with the Post-Gazette. Having Abrams involved meant sponsorship for the game as well as months of sports coverage in the Post-Gazette leading up to the game. Abrams agreed to have the Dapper Dan Club sponsor the game, but DiCesare had to guarantee Abrams that he would cover any monetary losses and that a portion of the proceeds would go the Dapper Dan Club charities. DiCesare booked a date for the first game to be played on March 26, 1965 at the Civic Arena.

Many felt that the game would not do well in Pittsburgh as it was not known as a basketball town. The first game suffered a major recruiting loss when the premier recruit in the nation, Lew Alcindor (later known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) declined their offer to play in the game. His coach would not allow him to play. Otherwise, Vaccaro had succeeded in getting big time high school talent from Pennsylvania and the rest of the United States. The format for the first game featured the National All-Stars vs. the Pennsylvania All-Stars at 9pm with a preliminary game that featured the Western Pennsylvania All Stars vs. City Catholic All-Stars game at 7pm. More than 10,000 fans attended the first game.

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