ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) – After two years of silence, arenas in Anchorage are once again filled with the sound of dribbling from the All Alaska Native Fur Rondy Basketball Tournament. For the past two years, the tournament was canceled due to COVID-19.
Games kicked off on Tuesday and will continue throughout the week at various locations around the city as part of the 2022 Fur Rondy.
Clayton Edwin has been participating in the tournament since he was 17 years old and it’s something he still loves 20 years later.
“It feels like … back in my college basketball days,” Edwin said.
Edwin said the sound of the basketball dribbling reminds him of his Native roots.
“When you’re dribbling the basketball, it’s like your Native drumming,” Edwin said. “… Basketball means everything to me. I love the game. It’s like hearing that drum beat.”
Tournament participants range from high school ages and up. Many of them, Alaska Native Sports Association Chairman Alvin Edenshaw said, have been playing on the courts together for decades.
“I’ve seen them come out when they were, some of them come out when they’re 18 years old and now some of them are 40 years old. Very good ballplayers,” Edenshaw said. “That’s what makes it good. People are happy to see them back.”
The event brings together Alaska Native basketball players from all over the state. All of them share a deep love for the game.
“All over Alaska, there is a bunch of little Native kids playing basketball and when you go out there and see these kids giving it their all — I don’t think they realize the opportunities there are out there,” Edwin said. “… I think these Native tournaments promote kids to stay in health.”
The games teach players resilience and the importance of living a healthy lifestyle.
“People can use the game of basketball to further their education. You know, stay alcohol and drug-free … Keep them away from suicide. Just keep them out of trouble,” Edwin said.
Players and organizers said they would help to inspire the next group of players to hit the courts.
“I love to see the younger kids come up here and watch some basketball because of them. There’s some very good Native basketball players that they can look out for in the long run,” Edenshaw said.
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