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Powder League co-founders focus on showcasing the culture in Salt Lake City

Powder League co-founder Neema Namdar warming up with a 3-point shot

Powder League co-founder Neema Namdar warming up with a 3-point shot (Kaylee Shores)

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Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — In the small gymnasium at Judge Memorial High, hundreds of fans show up to take in music, fashion and, of course, basketball.

The Powder League is a pro-am basketball league in its third year of operation, co-founded by Neema Namdar and Keegan Rembacz. It features current and former NBA players, collegiate athletes and serious hoopers.

"A grown man's AAU," Namdar said.

The Powder League currently comprises nine teams, each named after their captain. Games are played Wednesday and Friday nights, with a single-elimination tournament taking place after eight weeks of play.

So how did the Powder League come to be?

Well, it was the idea of both Namdar and Rembacz. The two friends each had their own idea of a basketball-centric event, and after sharing their ideas with each other, the Powder League came to be, with Namdar handling basketball operations while also playing in the league and Rembacz taking care of the graphic design and administration.

After both graduated from Alta High, Rembacz served a church mission in Spain and Namdar played collegiate basketball — first at Southern Utah, then Utah State University Eastern, and then Hawaii Pacific University.

It was at Hawaii Pacific that Namdar got his inspiration for a pro-am league. Namdar took a class on special events, and the final project was to design an event. He wanted to create a basketball league that featured NBA names while also giving fashion designers a place to sell clothes.

Around that same time, Rembacz had his own idea. A self-described hooper at heart, he claims to "live and breathe hoops." 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 more so on a smaller scale with college kids dunking and music. I rolled over and typed the note and fell back asleep."

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-on pro-am league, and the ball got rolling soon after. Just a week after their initial call, they were already attending meetings, and Rembacz worked on logos and graphics.

BYU alum Yoeli Childs blocking a shot during a Powder League game at Judge Memorial High School.
BYU alum Yoeli Childs blocking a shot during a Powder League game at Judge Memorial High School. (Photo: Kaylee Shores)

Frank Jackson, a member of the Detroit Pistons, was crucial to the beginning success of the Powder League. Namdar grew up with Jackson and the two remained close friends. Throughout the initial stages, Jackson gave insight to Namdar and Rembacz and also helped them connect with other basketball players. From then on, the league was essentially word of mouth.

"Basically just meeting people through basketball," Namdar said. "We just build connections with guys and they come in, then they tell their friends and word gets out."

It is important to note that the Powder League's focus is not just basketball, but also culture.

"Where else can you find this in Utah?" Rembacz asked. "People think something like this can't exist out here, but it easily can, someone just needs to kickstart it. Everyone out here loves basketball, fashion and music so we just combined it all together and made an event out of it."

Beginning this summer, the Powder League will expand beyond just the initial nine-week summer season in hopes to give more chances for fans to experience the event. They are in talks to collaborate with Flanker Kitchen and Sporting Club to hold a block party at the Gateway Mall. The block party would also feature basketball, but would be another prime opportunity for the local clothing brands to get exposure.

"At the end of the day, (having the music and fashion designers) adds to the atmosphere, but it also helps those people more than we could ever know." Rembacz said.

On the basketball side of things, the Powder League is also a great opportunity for the players to get exposure of their own.

The athletes participating get a chance to add more film to their portfolio — a lot of the players have professional aspirations. Some of the athletes are already in the NBA or in the G League, so their presence helps bring the level of competition to a higher level while they work on their own game during the offseason.

Although the league is just three years in, it is just getting started.

Rembacz and Namdar have big plans for the future of the Powder League. Eventually, they want the league to hold events in neighboring states like Colorado and Montana. In Utah, they want the Powder League to have their own facility. They also brought up potentially working with the Utah Jazz to help hold events as well.

"We kind of fit 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 purchased at the door.


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