In the basement bedroom of his mom’s New York City house sits a cherub-faced, 23-year-old man living out a dream most people believe only billionaires get to experience.
Dylan Gioia owns and runs his very own professional sports team, from his mother’s house.
“This is the hub of the Brooklyn Skyrockets,” Gioia says of his fledgling basketball team. “I do most of my work down here. I have a blackboard, I have my laptop. It’s all you really need.”
Gioia’s Skyrockets are part of the American Basketball Association (ABA). Yes, that ABA, like the one made famous by Dr. J and others back in the ‘70s, with that red, white and blue ball.
The original ABA was a major-league professional basketball league formed in 1967 and lasted for nine years until it merged with the NBA in 1976. Flash forward 23 years later, and the ABA was resurrected as a semi-professional basketball league, but with no affiliation to the original.
The new ABA began its first official season with eight teams in 2000. The number has now swelled close to 100 teams across the United States, Canada and even one in Japan.
Armed with a sports management degree from the State University of New York College at Cortland and a dream of one day becoming the general manager of the New York Knicks, Gioia discovered this new version of the ABA and that he could own his very own team without needing millions of dollars.
“The whole point of the ABA is accessibility to ownership,” Gioia says. “Not everyone has to be a millionaire.”
After applying on the ABA website and, subsequently, being approved by the league, the final hurdle was paying the membership fee of $10,000, which Gioia says he pays off in monthly installments of $250, interest free. After that, it was time to start building a team. He began his first season in November 2014.
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“You have to find a venue. We’re playing somewhere called the Aviator Sports & Events Center,” Gioia says of the federally owned Brooklyn facility that seats 4,000. “You have to find players, so we had tryouts. We have to find coaches. You’ve got to put together a website and then you’ve got to start raising funds through sponsorship and getting your name out there.”
The athletes who play in the ABA, which is now in the off-season, tend to be older men who played in college but moved on to other things after that.
“After school, I had a family, I had a son, so I tried to do other things,” Skyrockets forward Keenan Bell says. “But then this opportunity presented itself. So I said, you know what, it doesn’t hurt, let me give it a shot, and it’s something I can tell my son, show my son the tape.”
Right now, it’s a constant hustle for Gioia to sell tickets, gain sponsors and pay his players and coaches. But that hasn’t stopped him from dreaming big.
“I just want to be able to have a self-sustaining team where I could have a staff and where I could be an owner just like Mark Cuban,” Gioia says of the NBA Dallas Mavericks' owner. “Sit in the stands and watch it and not stress as much as I am and actually be able to sit and enjoy it.”