Powder League Co-Founder Neema Namdar Warms Up With A 3-Point Shot (Kaylee Shores)
Estimated reading time: 4-5 minutes
SALT LAKE CITY – In the small gym at Judge Memorial High, hundreds of fans show up to listen to music, fashion and, of course, basketball.
The Powder League is a pro-am basketball league in its third year, co-founded by Neema Namdar and Keegan Rembacz. It features current and former NBA players, collegiate athletes, and serious hoopers.
“An AAU grown man,” Namdar said.
The Powder League currently comprises nine teams, each named after their captain. Matches are played on Wednesday and Friday evenings, with a single-elimination tournament taking place after eight weeks of play.
So how was the Powder League born?
Well, it was both Namdar and Rembacz’s idea. The two friends each had their own idea of a basketball-focused event and, after sharing their ideas with each other, the Powder League was born, with Namdar taking care of basketball operations while also playing in the league. and Rembacz who was in charge of graphic design and administration.
After both graduated from Alta High, Rembacz served a church mission in Spain and Namdar played collegiate basketball, first in southern Utah, then at Utah State University Eastern, and then at Hawaii Pacific University.
It was in Hawaii Pacific that Namdar drew inspiration for a pro-am championship. Namdar took a lecture on special events and the final project was to design an event. He wanted to create a basketball league that featured NBA names and at the same time give designers a place to sell clothes.
Around the same time, Rembacz had his own idea. A self-described hooper at heart, he claims to “live and breathe circles”. The vision for the Powder League came to him in a dream, he said.
“Literally, one night I woke up from this dream,” Rembacz said. “It was kind of like (the current Powder League) but on a smaller scale with the college kids doing dunks and music. I turned around and typed the note and went back to sleep.”
The day after Rembacz’s dream, he FaceTimed Namdar to tell him. Namdar convinced him to take the idea one step further and create a full pro-am championship, and the ball started rolling soon after. Just a week after their initial call, they were already attending meetings and Rembacz worked on logos and graphics.
Frank Jackson, a member of the Detroit Pistons, was instrumental in the initial success of the Powder League. Namdar grew up with Jackson and the two remained close friends. During the early stages, Jackson provided information to Namdar and Rembacz and also helped them connect with other basketball players. From that point on, the championship has essentially been word of mouth.
“Basically just meeting people through basketball,” Namdar said. “We just build connections with the kids and they walk in, then they tell their friends and the word gets out.”
It is important to note that the focus of the Powder League is not just basketball, but culture as well.
“Where else can you find it in Utah?” Rembacz asked. “People think something like this can’t exist out here, but it can easily do it, someone just needs to start it. Everyone out here loves basketball, fashion and music, so we just put it all together and made a event”.
Beginning this summer, the Powder League will expand beyond just the initial nine-week summer season in hopes of giving fans more chances to experience the event. They are in talks to partner with Flanker Kitchen and Sporting Club to throw a neighborhood party at the Gateway Mall. The neighborhood party would also include basketball, but it would be another prime opportunity for local clothing brands to gain exposure.
“At the end of the day, (having the music and the stylists) adds atmosphere, but it also helps those people more than we ever know.” Rembacz said.
As for basketball, the Powder League is also a great opportunity for players to make themselves known.
Participating athletes have the option to add more films to their portfolio – many of the players have professional aspirations. Some of the athletes are already in the NBA or G League, so their presence helps bring the level of competition to a higher level as they work on their game during the off-season.
Even though the championship is just three years old, it is only just beginning.
Rembacz and Namdar have big plans for the future of the Powder League. Ultimately, they want the league to hold events in neighboring states like Colorado and Montana. In Utah, they want the Powder League to have its own structure. They also raised potentially working with the Utah Jazz to help organize events as well.
“We adapt hand in hand with what they do and what they do in the community,” Rembacz said. “One of our goals is to work with these big brands and put some of the smaller brands on the bigger stages.”
The Powder League is held every Wednesday and Friday night at Judge Memorial High. Tickets can be bought at the door.