LYNN — Lynn is a city loaded with tradition, especially in sports. But of all the popular tournaments and events, there are few more well-known than the Shoe City Classic.
“This is one of the biggest events we have,” said tournament director Simmie Anderson. “Before anyone from around here goes anywhere — Division I, pro ball, whatever — they play here first.”
Anderson would know, as he’s been involved with the tournament in some way, shape or form since its inception. He played in the very first Shoe City Classic in 1992 as a 16-year-old. He took over as tournament director in 2012. And every year in between, Anderson was a fan enjoying the massive community event.
“It’s always great when we can get the whole community out here, and they always come out for this tournament,” Anderson said. “This is a tournament that families come to every year. People who played in this tournament as kids come back and have their kids play in it, or they even play in it themselves. It’s really a community event.”
The 26th annual iteration of the popular basketball tournament kicks off Friday afternoon and will run through Sunday night at Marian Gardens. Thanks to local sponsors, the court will be lit each night to allow for night games. Speaking of the court, it’s sporting a brand-new refinishing job after an update earlier this year. Games will run from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., with a new game starting every hour. There will be games from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, while Sunday is reserved for the last few championship games. The tournament will be split into divisions based on age, with middle school, high school, college and men’s divisions. There are 32 teams in total registered for the tournament.
A number of local players from years past will return to the area to play in the tournament, including former University of Memphis standout and current Lynn English boys basketball coach Antonio Anderson. Other local players competing include Corey Bingham, Alvin Abreu and Jarell Byrd.
“All of these guys started out here,” Anderson said. “They grew up competing in this city, then went on to do great things and now they come back to compete in this tournament. It just shows how big this thing is. I still get calls every year from guys all around the country who want to know when the tournament is so they can come back for vacation, visit family and play.”
And it’s not even just local Lynners who are flocking to the city to play. Anderson pointed out that teams from all over Massachusetts are registered this year, including from Lawrence, Boston, Brockton and Cambridge. There are also teams from New Hampshire coming down to play this weekend.
“To be honest, I’ve still got teams calling me up trying to get in, and we’re making the schedule tonight (Tuesday),” said Anderson. “I can’t take anymore teams.”
It looks like the tournament may have to expand even beyond the current 32 teams. As a matter of fact, Anderson noted that he is working on putting together divisions for women and girls, as well as elementary school kids, in the coming years.
“We want to get as many people involved in this tournament as we can,” Anderson said.
Anderson especially thanked Ward 6 Councilor Peter Capano and School Committee member John Ford for their help in putting together the tournament each year.