Professional basketball poised for return to Birmingham

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A consortium of investors is considering a proposal to establish a new professional basketball franchise in Birmingham as part of the British Basketball League (BBL).

The consortium has already approached the BBL to officially register its interest in acquiring the Birmingham BBL franchise for the 2023/24 season, and its project lead, Bob Hope, is about to start work on a feasibility study and business plan.

The consortium is to work with the City of Birmingham Rockets Basketball Club, chairman Kirk Dawes, managing director Rob Palmer and director and club ambassador Hakeem Olajuwon, a two-time NBA Champion with the Houston Rockets, Olympic Gold medallist and a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the FIBA Hall of Fame.

Dawes said: “We have been working with Bob Hope over the past few months concerning the concept of bringing back to Birmingham a team playing in the topflight of the game. Our relationship with the investors includes a commitment to our Junior Development programme, started in 2003 by Rob Palmer, that saw Hakeem Olajuwon, one of the greatest players of all time, join us seven years ago. We will continue to work with Bob and the investors with every effort to make this dream a reality.”

Olajuwon said: “When I came to this great city, I found a jewel in the form of City of Birmingham Rockets Basketball Club, with so many kids from all races and cultures in this vibrant city working together. It was natural for me to become involved. Seven years ago, I asked the question, where is the professional club? People told me about the great days of Birmingham Bullets and how the city no longer had a franchise. However, on being introduced to Kirk and Rob, I saw the club’s commitment to the game and to the development of the kids. This is excellent news, finding people we can work with who will partner our fantastic development programme and bring the professional game back to Birmingham.”

Palmer said: “The club has been at the forefront of providing basketball opportunities in the region for almost 20 years catering for thousands of young people during that period. We have always operated a model of organic growth, whilst being open to working with partners who share our vision. Our steady sustained growth and reputation has led us to meeting investors whose values and aspirations are aligned to our own. I’m excited that the return of topflight basketball to our great city is currently being explored with our involvement.”

Hope, ex-commercial director for BBL, who has been involved in basketball one way or another at every level throughout his career, has been appointed by the consortium to head up the project, added: “I simply can’t wait to bring professional elite basketball back to Birmingham. Some of the best years of my career were based in this vibrant city, when, in 1980 I and some colleagues, at the request of Doug Ellis (director of Aston Villa FC) moved Team Fiat from Coventry to Birmingham. While I was head coach and general manager for the renamed team, the Birmingham Bullets, the club and the sport thrived. The establishment of a new professional team in Birmingham will give the city a real boost, especially coming off the back of the Commonwealth Games this summer.”

Hope resigned from his post as commercial director of BBL a year ago, after raising £3.5m in cash for the League over a four-and-a-half year period. He has run a number of very successful companies including a TV production company for over 30 years, during which time his company has televised over 200 international and national basketball games (including BBL games) for the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Sky Sports, EuroSport and more.