Photo: courtesy of the Washington Fusion

Global Mixed-Gender Basketball Washington Fusion Hits the Court

Duan Somers, co-owner of the Washington Fusion, is energized about the team’s matchup happening this month right here in the District.

“November 16 will exhibit the epitome of gender equality,” Somers says. “The future of basketball is now!”

The future of basketball that Somers is talking about is one in which male and female players are competing together in one league, and this future is not just a dream. It’s a reality, as the Global Mixed Gender Basketball league (GMGB) comes to the Entertainment and Sports Arena in Southeast DC later this month.

Warren Morris, head publicist for the Fusion, says that the league’s CEO James Scott hatched the idea for the league after wondering why pro basketball leagues were always separated by gender.

“James Scott had the vision a few years ago: seeing men and women playing together on the same team, on the same court and at the same time,” Morris says. “This had never been done before. That imagination took on reality and birthed the first original coed basketball league.”

Morris says that when fans come to see GMGB games, they’ll notice that the league has some new rules that differ from standard NBA and WNBA regulations.

“In GMGB,” he says, “there are three females and two males in the first and third quarters. In the second and fourth quarters, there are three males and two females. Additionally, each three-point shot made by a female counts for four points.”

The league tries to extend the concept of men and women competing together to all aspects of the game, featuring both male and female referees as well as coaching staff. Coaches include WNBA icon Lisa Leslie with the New Orleans Gators and NBA Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins with the Atlanta Heirs.

It’s fitting that the Fusion will be playing at the Entertainment and Sports Arena – the home arena of DC’s WNBA team, the Washington Mystics – since the team has many links to the WNBA.

The Fusion has featured Natasha Cloud, Tierra Ruffin-Pratt and Tiffany Bias, all players with experience playing in the WNBA. Coach Nikki Teasley played college hoops at UNC, and then went on to win a WNBA championship with the LA Sparks.

As part of the GMGB league, the Fusion has its share of male players as well – including many former college and NBA standouts. They include Andre Barrett, who played for Seton Hall and several NBA teams including the Chicago Bulls and the LA Clippers; Khalid El-Amin, who played for UConn and the Chicago Bulls; and Michael Sweetney, who played for Georgetown and the New York Knicks.

The Fusion is one of six teams in the league right now, with an eye on expanding to a total of eight in the near future. Morris says that in addition to featuring top former college and pro players on the court, each team has celebrities on the ownership side as well.

These include actress and reality star Laura Govan with the Chicago Vikings; singer-songwriter Tameka “Tiny” Harris with the Atlanta Heirs; rapper Trick Daddy with the Miami Ballers; rapper, actor and businessman Percy “Master P” Miller with the New Orleans Gators; rapper and actor Ice-T with the New York Nights; and rapper and actor Anwan “Big G” Glover with DC’s very own Fusion.

Fusion co-owner Glover, who played Slim Charles in HBO’s critically acclaimed series The Wire, is also a founding member of the Backyard Band – a DC go-go mainstay performing at the halftime show for the upcoming Fusion game.

Beyond its robust celebrity roster, the GMGB league has made helping local communities a key component of each matchup. Morris says that in the past, they have made diabetes awareness the cause, providing free health screenings along with free tickets to the games. Another recent initiative put the spotlight on the issue of domestic violence.

The bottom line – from both the league side and those who have attended previous GMGB games – is that the energy, passion and excitement of the games must be seen in person to truly be understood. DC fans are lucky to have just that chance this month.

Watch the Washington Fusion take on the Chicago Vikings on Saturday, November 16 at 6 p.m. at the Entertainment and Sports Arena. Tickets start at $10. Learn more about the Fusion at www.globalmixedgenderbasketball.com and follow the team on social media @washingtonfusion.

The Entertainment and Sports Arena: 1100 Oak St. SE, DC; www.esaontherise.com