TBT Power Rankings 5.10.17


By: Josh Brown | @josh_brown31

Billups, Ryan, Livingston headline TBT 2017 Celebrity Boosters

From a future Hall of Fame point guard to an NFL MVP and an up-and-coming boxing phenom, celebrities from all walks of life are serving as boosters for teams in TBT 2017. While no, we will not see Chauncey Billups take the court with Team Colorado or Shaun Livingston suit up with his hometown friends on Always A Brave, these boosters have an important role to fill in helping rack up fan votes and exposure for their respective teams. So without further ado, sit back and relax as we look at just some of the celebrity boosters supporting teams in TBT 2017. And as always, please remember these rankings are just one guy's opinion. 

*Note: We love when teams align themselves in conjunction with a charity or cause, but feel that no one cause is greater than another. Therefore, we've decided to leave off boosters who have publically pledged to donate a portion/all of their winnings to charity. A big tip of the hat to these boosters, though. Your dedication to better other people's lives is one of our favorite parts about this whole tournament!

1. Chauncey Billups (Team Colorado)

Was there ever really a doubt that Mr. Big Shot would be anywhere other than number one on this list? While his Hall of Fame worthy NBA career speaks for itself, it would be a mistake for basketball fans to forget just how dominant Billups was at Colorado. Over the course of his two seasons (1995-1997) with the program, Billups was named a member of the All-Big 12 First Team and AllBuffs.com All-Time Colorado Buffaloes Men's Baskeball Team. In addition to averaging a staggering 18.5 points, 5.6 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game while in Boulder, Billups led the Buffaloes to their first NCAA tournament appearence in 28 years in 1997. And if you look to the rafters of the Coors Events Center, you will see his famous No. 4 hanging for eternity. Billups' support is just the latest in a long list of reasons for Team Colorado fans to be excited for #TBT2017. In addition to bringing back a strong core from last summer and also adding some fresh faces, Team Colorado is just one of three teams as of Tuesday night to be officially accepted into TBT 2017.  


2. Matt Ryan (Team Challenge ALS) 

* While Ryan is supporting Team Challenge ALS and Pete Frates, he is not set to collect any winnings should they take home the $2 million.

 Not only is the 2016 NFL MVP back supporting a squad for the second consecutive summer, but he has been one of the most active celebrity boosters in TBT history. Routinely tweeting his support for Skinner's Frate Train last year and Team Challenge ALS in #TBT2017, Ryan has established himself as an invaluable asset for GM Sean Marshall and company. And if you still have any doubts that a booster really matters in TBT, just look at the standings. Team Challenge ALS is sitting second in the West region with nearly 600 fan votes as of Tuesday night. With nine coveted popularity bids at stake per region, having the support of someone like Ryan could be the difference between an automatic berth and praying to the basketball gods for an at-large selection. 


3. Shaun Livingston (Always A Brave)

Although Livingston did not attend Bradley University, every time he steps on the court he is representing his native Peoria, Illinois. With his Golden State Warriors serving as arguably the most talked about sports team in the world since 2015, Livingston has had a unique opportunity to shine a spotlight on the city that will host TBT's Midwest Regional. The two-time state champion with Peoria Central High School is also a perfect representation of the gritty, underdog mentality that led Always A Brave to the TBT semifinals last summer. After suffering a devastating knee injury in 2007 that could have spelled the end of his career, Livingston has bounced back to become one of the best defensive players in the NBA. And with the Warriors looking like the favorite to take home the NBA title once again, could we possibly see Peoria celebrate two championships in the span of two months this summer? Looking at the Always A Brave roster, it certainly seems realistic to me.


4. Ed Pinckney (SuperNOVA)

As if there wasn't already enough reasons for Villanova fans to be excited about the return of SuperNOVA for #TBT2017, the addition of Ed Pinckney as a booster takes it to the next level. With the Wildcats alumni squad currently on the outside looking in when it comes to a popularity bid, this could be the move that helps mobilize fans to get out and vote. When Ed Pinckney speaks, Villanova fans listen. And for good reason. Until 2016, Pinckney was on the lone Villanova squad that cut down the nets in 1985. He scored 16 points and grabbed 6 rebounds in the NCAA Championship against Georgetown, winning the tournament's Most Outstanding Player award. Following a successful 12-year career in the NBA, Pinckney, the 10th overall pick in 1985, returned to Villanova as an assistant coach from 2003-2007. He has since been an assistant coach with the Chicago Bulls, Denver Nuggets and currently the Minnesota Timberwolves.


5. Cody Zeller (Armored Athlete)

Although, as Zeller explains below, he missed out on a much-coveted spot on the Armored Athlete roster, he is still rolling with his former Indiana teammates this summer. The fourth overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft played college ball with all three Hoosiers' alumni currently on the roster (Jordan Hulls, Will Sheehey, Christian Watford). The quartet not only won the Big Ten regular season title in 2013, but made a run to the Sweet 16, where they fell just short to Syracuse. Zeller had the best season of his young NBA career this year, posting career high's in points per game (10.3), rebounds (6.5), and minutes (27.8) for the Charlotte Hornets. Off the court, Zeller is also having a notable year. Six years after first enrolling at Indiana University, Zeller received his degree in business management this past weeek. That's right, while powering through a grueling NBA schedule, the 7-foot center also took online classes. So what else can 2017 possibly offer Zeller? Armored Athlete hopes they two millions answers to that question.


6. Festus Ezeli (Memorial Magic)

Ezeli spent the early part of his life in Nigeria, where the only sport that matters is played on the pitch with a black and white patterned ball. So when he arrived in the United States at the age of 14, learning the fundamentals of basketball was a totally new endeavor. Despite his inexperience, Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings believed in the 6-foot-11 center and groomed him into the low-post force he is today with the Portland Trail Blazers. Now, Ezeli is giving back to the program by serving as a booster for his former college teammates on Memorial Magic. Ezeli began supporting this team long before the application process even began on April 1. Thus, it should come as no surprise that the squad is currently sitting third in the South with nearly 800 votes. And what if Memorial Magic is able to take home the $2 million this summer? It would be the program's greatest accomplishment since Ezeli won the 2015 NBA title with the Golden State Warriors.


7. Steve Novak (Golden Eagles)

Nothing says mid-2000's Marquette basketball quite like Wesley Matthews and Steve Novak. So it's only right that the two return to the Golden Eagles this summer to try and help some more recent grads win $2 million. Matthews will be calling the X's and O's yet again this summer, while Novak has carved out a role as a booster trying to help rally the Marquette fan base. He has done just that. While the Golden Eagles would certainly love for Novak, the program's all-time leader in three-point shots made in a career (354), to post up beyond the arc this summer, they will certainly take the plethora of fan votes that the 11-year NBA vet has helped assemble as a consolation.  With just three weeks left to go in the registration process, the Golden Eagles hold a commanding grip on the second spot in the Midwest with nearly 1,000 votes. 


8. Antonio Hamilton (C-House Basketball USA)

Despite presumably looking for some new real estate in Las Vegas, Raiders cornerback Antonio Hamilton took some time to support C-House Basketball USA. And with a fantastic rookie season under his belt, having Hamilton as a booster will only help this team accomplish its goal of grabbing one of the final popularity bid spots in the Midwest. Like most of the guys on the C-House Basketball USA roster, Hamilton has been counted out for his whole life. But after given an opportunity in the NFL, the South Carolina State product showed that he can compete with the best of the best. That is exactly what C-House Basketball USA is looking to prove in #TBT2017: that although you may not recognize all of their names, they just need one opportunity to show that they are the best team in the world.


9. Brett Comer (Pedro's Posse)

Due to an upcoming ACL reconstruction procedure, the Florida Gulf Coast legend has traded in his originally scheduled point guard duties for a booster role in TBT 2017. But although we will not see his signature alley-oop passing skills on display, the maestro of Dunk Ciy will still have plenty of influence on Pedro's Posse this summer. In fact, despite the setback Comer has continued to lobby for votes over social media. Should Pedro's Posse find themselves in a tight race in the West, Comer will have an almost unlimited network of Florida Gulf Coast fanatics that he can rely on to help put them over the edge.


10. Isaiah Wise (The Blue And Gold Club)

Although Isaiah Wise is probably only known within the boxing community right now, based on his current trajectory that is going to change real soon. The 24-year old is already 4-1 in his career with three knockouts. And with a huge fight on tap in early June against 3-0 Mark Daniels Jr., a win would continue to boost his stock to even greater heights. So how does Wise help The Blue and Gold Club (Drexel alumni)? As we all know based on the Rocky series, the only thing Philadelphia fans love more than good basketball is a scrappy hometown fighter. With fan voting in the Northeast region expected to go down to the wire, a group of hometown basketball heroes pairing up with a local up-and-coming boxing star could rally the city behind The Blue and Gold Club.