Interview with LBA team leader, Tony Lazare

The LBA had the opportunity to sit-down with LBA team leader, Tony Lazare, to discuss all things LBA, how he got his start playing basketball, and where he see’s basketball going in London. Read our interview with Tony to learn about all and this and more!

Q) How did you get your start playing basketball?

A) When I was about 7 or 8 years old, my cousin and I would go down to The Pen and we used to be out there all day. My uncle was really into the NBA, so that’s why my cousin was into basketball and he influenced me to play. I stopped playing though when I was around 10 years old and traded in my sneakers for cleats, when I started playing Football. I stopped playing Football when I was around 15 years old and started playing basketball again, and I never looked back from there.

Q) Why choose basketball? What inspired you to keep playing after all of these years and eventually choosing the game as your career?

A) Well I think with just about any sport, if you have a great coach who has the ability to work with you, connect with you, make you want to be better, and give you the attention that you need in order to improve and acknowledges your potential and draws it out of you, that is what I found that inspired me. My coaches definitely had an influence over me and motivated me to keep playing sports. My coaches definitely showed me how rewarding it is to help others, which lead to me eventually choosing basketball as a part of my career.

Q) How did the LBA form? What inspired you to create the company?

A) Back in 2012, I was with London Pioneers Basketball Club, which I founded with a group of others in 2008. By 2012 we made it sustainable because we merged it over to another charity called Green House. When we did that, the community aspect that I really worked a lot with, was not the focus anymore. Their goal was to make and create teams in order to play basketball games an eventually advance to a team. So, the London 2012 Olympics were going on and we thought ‘Hey, lets leave and build a legacy, it is our time to come together and start something. I was discussing this with a few others, and they all wanted to be apart of this movement. Our first year up and running, we just wanted to show what we could do and we felt that basketball in the UK and all across London was a mess, so we wanted to tackle that issue. We wanted to create something with quality attached to it and was always handled with the highest standard in mind. We wanted to help make other basketball organizations more resourceful, promote basketball, enhancing the organizations that were already out there, and make basketball more available. So that’s why we created the London Basketball Association.

 Q) Why choose to work with mostly youth? Why not choose to go to the United States?

A) Maybe one day I will go to the USA to work with basketball, but I feel that the market there is already very established and we feel right now is a time in London where basketball is under established compared to the rest of the world and it is only a matter of time before that turns around. We think that we could definitely be apart of turning this around. We got a passion for it already, so let’s just do something on a bigger and wider scale. The reason why we focus on youth is because there is a lot of youth out there playing basketball and they are really the future generation, so if you can help them, the people that are already adults and playing professional are established players, that good, but that’s why we decided to focus on the youth. There is also a lot more funding out there for the youth and we have been able to collaborate with a number of organizations, like London Youth, who help make LBA activities possible.

Q) In your own words, how would you describe the LBA?

A) The LBA is a neutral hub for basketball, which is here to empower people and grow the game efficiently and effectively.

Q) What would you say are the LBA’s biggest strengths and weaknesses?

A) It’s biggest weakness is that it lacks money. It does not have the financial backings in order to move forward in an efficient way. Our strengths are that we have a whole lot of passion. We have a very resourceful team and network, so we can pull off a lot of things with the resources we have. Even though we don’t have the financial capabilities, we can still make things happen.

Q) What programs do the LBA offer? What projects do you have coming up? Do you have a favorite one in particular? Do you have any future projects in mind?

A) They’re all my favourites! Right now we just started our LBA College League, which is something I used to run back in the day when I was with London Pioneers Basketball Club, but it is just something I picked up now because Basketball England got a lot of funding cuts and made a lot of people redundant in the London area. So the people who were running the College League got made redundant, so the Colleges started coming to us, since I used to run it and that the LBA is now seen as a pillar for basketball. The different Colleges would call us asking if the LBA had anything going on, so due to the demand, we had a plan set aside and brought it to our LBA players who were really receptive of the idea. We now have nine teams signed up for our LBA College League; we have the schedule laid out for the whole season. We have a great collaboration with London South Bank University and their athletic department. We have a High School league coming up, which is set to start in January. We already have teams committed to playing which is great. The league will feature mostly Central London schools. We just want to give the London youth the opportunity to play basketball.

Q) Where do you see London basketball in a few years? Do you see the LBA being apart of that movement why or why not?

A) London Basketball has so much potential in my opinion. I think it needs to go in a direction where things aren’t so segmented. People need to be more unified. Basketball clubs, coaches, officials, leagues, schools, they all need to work together. I think it can definitely happen if someone were to help facilitate and pioneers the way for it. As far as professional basketball in London, we have the London Lions. I am hoping that they can become a real avenue for people to look forward too and I would eventually like to see a London team entered into the Euro League. We need to try and make it happen and conversations need to start happening to make it become a reality. I think their needs to be a lot more transparency and collaborations. I think the LBA has the potential to be a pillar to making a change, a shift in the way things have been done that aren’t good and giving people a different and new perspective of basketball in London. The perspective now is that it is lacking in pretty much every department. So, we can be the people’s champions.