Basketball fans reflect on Shootout's 40-year run
The GCI Great Alaska Shootout, one of the longest-running basketball tournaments in the country, is ending its final brackets this week as the event shuts down this year.
"I've been coming since '78 when it started," said fan Roger Jenkins. "I was working for the city in engineering and it was out at Buckner Fieldhouse which what is now JBER -- well, that was Fort Rich."
The first 10 years of the tournament brought a lot of top talent.
"At least half of the teams would be in the top 20,"Jenkins said. "We saw them all. The first 15 years I was at every game and then I was in rural Alaska, but still had tickets."
Some fans remember the games, but others remember the fans. Linda and Dave Garrison came all the way from Florida just to be a part of the final Shootout.
"One year I got to be in the middle of the court to shoot a basket," Linda Garrison said, "Boy, I did the best air ball you're ever going to see. Basically I'm going to miss the camaraderie that happens here; a lot of the people meet friends, new friends even."
The tournament started as a novelty, a place to go in a far-away land that had big-time cable stations following it.
"You had Alaska and Hawaii as the only two tournaments, pre-season tournaments -- now there is like 80-some tournaments," said Dave Garrison, a 15-year season ticket holder. "The big-market TV stations just started making their own tournaments and just left us. You used to see Kentucky and Duke; that type of quality of games were here."
"You had Dwayne Wade here," Linda Garrison said. "Nate Robinson, you know, these people that would later become professionals."
Whether you lived in Alaska most of your life or had just moved here, the Shootout was a household name.
"It's one of the reasons I moved here," said Jeff Guerra, formerly from Colorado. "I remember watching the tournament like 20 years ago, it was before the season started and some of the really big names were there -- and I was watching it at like 3 in the morning, because I was in New York and it was fun to watch back then."
Now, though, those days are over.
"I'm kind of sad to see it go," Guerra said. "I think it's great for the kids and community. It brings some high-level basketball here and I'm sad to see it go."
The tournament brought in not only big names, but also some big-time games -- including one epic contest in 1998.
"The time Trajan Langdon was here with Duke and Cincinnati was here and they beat Duke on a last-second shot," Jenkins said. "They threw the ball from there to the guy at the free-throw line, he turned and pitched it to a guy making the layup. It was a great, great play; the couple next to me, they had a son about 10 years old and he was crying."
The end of the tournament also takes the limelight off the women's basketball team. Although the Seawolves are a Division II school, they've made a habit of upsetting Division I teams in the tournament, notching six tournament titles since 1999. Their most recent win had been in 2009 before the Seawolves women added a seventh on Thursday night, and the UAA men won a tight game in overtime, leaving their fans with a lasting memory.
"These girls are playing so well, and they are worth watching," Jenkins said.
"We were just talking earlier how great it is, you know," Dave Garrison said. "I'm going to miss it."
Editor's note: GCI is KTVA's parent company.