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NABI plans for a full field in Phoenix

After being canceled a year ago due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Native American Basketball Invitational will return in 2021.

The NABI Foundation announced April 27 that a full field of 128 all-Native American and Indigenous teams, including from the Seminole Tribe, will compete in the Phoenix area July 11-17. The tournament will also include an educational youth summit that debuted in 2019.

NABI attracts more than 1,300 boys and girls ages 14-19. The Seminole Tribe has been a longtime sponsor of the tournament.

“This year’s registration turnout is a testament to the significance of NABI among Indigenous youth who love playing basketball and who benefit tremendously from exploring the higher educational opportunities NABI’s educational summit opens them to,” GinaMarie Scarpa, president and CEO of NABI Foundation, said in a statement.

Scarpa, who is half Indigenous on her mother’s side, co-founded NABI with former Phoenix Suns player Mark West.

“In my garage, we were an odd trifecta of talent. Our friend, the late Scott Podleski, saw a need. I brought nonprofit experience as the former executive director of the A.C. Green Foundation and Mark, who is a huge advocate for higher education, well, played a lot of basketball and knew the game,” Scarpa said.

Due to the pandemic, the tournament will mandate a mask policy and a scaled-down version of its educational program. The tournament hopes that by this summer full attendance at games will be permitted.

“We’re a nimble organization that pivots easily. We hope that by July full-capacity gyms will be allowed and fans, who are overwhelmingly families and community members of participating tribal teams, will be able to attend games and other events,” said Lynette Lewis, director of program operations.

The tournament’s future looks bright. NABI has a goal of doubling the number of participating teams to 256 beginning in 2022. Also in development is an annual All-Native American adult NABI tournament for ages 21 and up.

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