• Photo for Hoop Dreams: Los Angeles league sends four teams to Gay Games
    Photo Credit: courtesy of the Lambda Basketball League

Hoop Dreams: Los Angeles league sends four teams to Gay Games

By S. Wentworth

Defending champions of the 2002 Sydney Gay Games, Lambda Basketball League (LBL) suits up four teams for the 2006 Chicago Gay Games in an effort to repeat.

For 20 years, the LBL has been creating an environment where gay men and women can play basketball without fear of taunting or discrimination. The Long Beach Rebels of the LBL have reached the final round of the Gay Games an unmatched four times, winning one gold and three silver medals. The L.A. Heat, also of the LBL, won gold at the Sydney Games while the Rebels took silver.

The LBL is sending four teams to the Gay Games this year: The Long Beach Rebels, Old Dawgs / Same Tricks (an over-35 team), LBL Ballers and Young Guns.

Luciano Costa, 32-year-old LBL Ballers' power forward and event coordinator for the league, is excited to bring together his sports and sexuality in such a “positive and rewarding experience” for his first Gay Games.

“Our players come from all walks of life—different races, cultures, experience, age and social status. Yet when we are on the court, nothing else matters but the ball and the goal,” he said.

Costa said the Gay Games are “a step forward toward breaking society's stereotype of gay men. It motivates me to be a role model to younger gay athletes who are fighting homophobia in sports.”

The “freedom of expression, the camaraderie and feeling of acceptance without prejudice” make playing on an all-gay team exceptional, Costa said.

Gay Games veteran and Long Beach Rebels guard Mark Chambers, 41, agrees. “My team is made up of guys that get what it is all about,” he said. “Win or lose we have each other at the end of the day. Our league is inclusive, but the experience you have with your teammates is very exclusive. It’s something special.”

For Jeff Hermann, 37-year-old veterinarian and veteran of the silver medal Sydney team, the Gay Games also marks a very special homecoming.

“I am most excited because I grew up about 50 miles west of Chicago,” he said. “I came out to most of my friends after I moved to California six-and-a-half years ago. Many of them have never seen me play competitive basketball much less in a gay tournament. It will be so awesome not only being able to play in front of them, but also to expose them to the gay athletic community through something as fantastic as the Gay Games.”

Hermann finds playing in an all-gay league validating.

“For most of my life, I grew up thinking I was the only gay athlete out there,” he said. “I never knew anything like this existed, so for me it is an incredible feeling to see so many gay athletes playing in a safe environment where everyone has the same love for your sport.”

Darren Craig, 36, hails from Australia and joins the LBL for the first time for the games in Chicago. He’s looking forward to playing in his first Gay Games and, while he hopes to make it to the finals, it’s the friendship that’s most important to him.

“It’s great to meet new people and make new friends,” he said.

LBL Ballers’ guard Brian Davis, 22, readies for his first Gay Games. “The Gay Games gives me the opportunity to get out there and compete again,” he said. “And it's on a worldwide stage!”

Struck with gold fever, Davis is going for “gold all the way. A lot of the people on my team are first-timers, so whether or not that is possible remains to be seen. Whether or not we win, I'm sure we'll have a great time.”

One thing Davis particularly loves about the all-gay league he plays in is “the trash talk takes on a whole new dimension.”

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