Flint, MI—Tensions ran high until the last second of the last game of Flint United’s inaugural season.
Although its first season was lackluster, having won only six of its 23 games, Flint’s new professional basketball team, part of The Basketball League, managed to end things on a high note.
On the buzzer’s final ring, the scoreboard read 105 for Flint United and 104 for the Detroit Hustle. Their first victory had been against the Hustle, which was followed by two losses against the Detroit team. By winning that final game, the score was settled 2-2 by the end of the season.
As the game ended and fans descended onto the court, Kevin Mays, founder and owner of Flint United, spoke about the team’s first season.
“This is surreal, it’s bittersweet. We put so much work in to get to this point. I’m glad that it’s over so we can start getting ready for the next season. I’m filled with emotion. I’m proud of the guys, I’m proud of this city and with what we were able to do in year one,” Mays said.
Flint and basketball have been synonymous for decades. The city has had a rich history of talented players throughout the years, with many going on to play in college and in the NBA. For Mays, becoming part of that history by bringing professional basketball back to Flint (Flint was home to the minor league team, the Fuze in 2001) was an honor.
“We know what we want out of the game of basketball … it’s something that everybody wants and asks for and talks about and now here it is. We gave this city a small taste of what’s to come and I hope they continue to love it and grow with us and just build this team to be the best it can be,” Mays said.
Despite the final score being too close for comfort—Detroit’s Dwight Burton was centimeters away from the three-point line when he made the final shot—Flint United had managed to keep a comfortable lead throughout most of the game.
This was thanks in part to United’s top scorer for the game, shooting guard and Flint native Antonio Davis, who walked away from the match with 23 points to his name. Much like the rest of his teammates, Davis played a tight but calm game. It wasn’t until Flint’s lead started to diminish that intensity from Davis and the rest of the team began to rise.
This culminated in an animated fourth quarter filled with non-stop sprinting up and down the court and 26 fouls, the most of any quarter.
Davis, who played 16 games during the season, said he knew when he got on the court that day that anything but his best wouldn’t do.
“I knew I had to go out there and give it my all. My teammates helped me out, my coaches. I’m from Flint and I knew the city would come out to watch so I had to be the best,” Davis said.
Charlie Bell, who took on his first head coach position with Flint United after a storied career playing in several American and European including the NBA, said he enjoyed returning to his hometown and watching as the team started gaining fans and recognition.
“I felt it was great to see the fan support that we had. As the season went on people started to find out about United and give their support. I know next year we’ll have a whole season behind us and we’ll start getting more publicity.
As for the results of the final game, Bell was content with the victory. “It was ugly but we’ll take it,” he said. “It feels good to end on a win, we’re short handed, and Detroit beat us the last couple of times. But my guys went out there, they competed, and it paid off,” Bell said.
Just like when he was a player, Bell said next season’s success depends on how he and the rest of the team are able to learn from their mistakes. Like Mays, Bell is already looking for ways to improve, and he’s hoping the people of Flint will stick around to see those improvements.
“You know when you go through a season, you need to look at the things you need to work on and as a coach it’s the same thing. We need to look at how we’re going to get better, players, coaches, all of us. It’s just about trying to get better,” Bell said.