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NABI cancelled for 2020

Savage Storm, whose team included some players from the Seminole Tribe, celebrates after winning the 2018 NABI Division I boys championship in Arizona. Organizers announced April 13, 2020, that this year’s tournament has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Native Edge Sports photo)

The Native American Basketball Invitational, an annual highpoint for some of the best young players from the Seminole Tribe and the rest of Indian Country, has been cancelled for 2020. NABI announced its decision April 13.

“It is with a heavy heart that we are sad to officially announce that due to the current COVID 19 pandemic, the NABI Foundation has moved forward with the full cancellation of the 18th annual Native American Basketball Invitational and 2nd annual Educational Youth Summit (NABI), scheduled for June 21-27, 2020 in Phoenix, Arizona,” the NABI Foundation posted on its Facebook page. “The decision was based solely on the health and welfare of all the youth and communities we serve. With the state of Arizona and many parts of the country still considered unsafe, and social gatherings are restricted due to the current virus, the NABI Foundation strongly feels a full cancelation is warranted.”

Each year NABI attracts more than 120 teams with boys and girls ages 14-19 from throughout Indian Country for the weeklong tournament at sites in and around Phoenix. It was just two years ago that a Seminole Tribe team – the Savage Storm – won the Division I boys championship. This year’s championship games were scheduled to be held at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix.

Registered teams will have the option of a full refund or be automatically entered into the 2021 NABI.

The cancellation’s impact will be felt beyond the courts. NABI is more than just basketball games; academic  components, guest speakers and other opportunities are a big part of the experience. The schedule included a college fair, a basketball camp, the educational youth summit, trips to see the Arizona Diamondbacks host the Los Angeles Dodgers and a “Night with the Phoenix Mercury of the WNBA.”

Once restrictions are lifted, NABI hopes to move forward with its junior camps as well its golf tournament, which has been rescheduled to Oct. 5, and its first alumni classic for ages 21 and over set for December. All proceeds from the events benefit the foundation and its youth programs.

The NABI cancellation comes on the heels of the cancellation of the North American Indigenous Games in Nova Scotia, Canada, which traditionally draws about 5,000 Indigenous athletes. The NAYO basketball tournament that was scheduled to be hosted by the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians during Easter weekend, has been postponed indefinitely.

Kevin Johnson
Kevin Johnson is senior editor. He has worked for The Seminole Tribune since 2014. He was previously an editor, photographer and reporter for newspapers in Southwest Florida and Connecticut. Contact Kevin at