Roundball Classic

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The Roundball Classic, originally known as The Dapper Dan Roundball Classic (also known as Magic Johnson's Roundball, Sonny Vaccaro's Roundball Classic, Asics Roundball Classic) is well known in the sports world as the first national high school All Star basketball game.[1][2][3] It was sponsored by and used as a fundraising event for the Dapper Dan Charities in Pittsburgh. The inaugural game was played at the Civic Arena in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on March 26, 1965.


The cofounders of the game, Sonny Vaccaro and Pat DiCesare, were two boyhood friends from the small Western Pennsylvania town of Trafford.[4] Vaccaro was a young school teacher and sports enthusiast who in the early 1960s had organized local high school basketball tournaments throughout Pennsylvania. His friend and college roommate Pat DiCesare (future president of DiCesare Engler Productions [6] had made a name for himself by promoting major concert events in Western Pennsylvania.[5] Vaccaro wanted to do a basketball tournament in the Pittsburgh area, and asked DiCesare if he had interest in promoting the event. DiCesare, who had just brought the Beatles to the Pittsburgh Civic Arena, wanted the event to have national appeal and take place in a large venue. So, he encouraged his friend to recruit the best players in the country. The two friends decided that the game would feature high school All-Star players recruited from Pennsylvania against those recruited from the rest of the United States, and it would be played at the Pittsburgh Civic Arena.

Tim Tormey, a friend and business mentor to Pat DiCesare, initiated a meeting between DiCesare and Al Abrams.[7] Abrams was the senior sports editor for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the president of the Dapper Dan Club, a charitable organization associated with the Post-Gazette. Having Abrams involved meant sponsorship for the game as well as months of sports coverage in the Post-Gazette leading up to the game. Abrams agreed to have the Dapper Dan Club sponsor the game, but DiCesare had to guarantee Abrams that he would cover any monetary losses and that a portion of the proceeds would go the Dapper Dan Club charities.[8] DiCesare booked a date for the first game to be played on March 26, 1965 at the Civic Arena.

Many felt that the game would not do well in Pittsburgh as it was not known as a basketball town. The first game suffered a major recruiting loss when the premier recruit in the nation, Lew Alcindor (later known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) declined their offer to play in the game. His coach would not allow him to play. Otherwise, Vaccaro had succeeded in getting big time high school talent from Pennsylvania and the rest of the United States. The format for the first game featured the National All-Stars vs. the Pennsylvania All-Stars at 9pm with a preliminary game that featured the Western Pennsylvania All Stars vs. City Catholic All-Stars game at 7pm.[6] More than 10,000 fans attended the first game.


In the early years, the game quickly gained greater media coverage and a bigger fan following. The game was important for recruiting purposes as hundreds of colleges coaches and even pro scouts attended the game.[7][8] It was known to be the "premier high school baskettball attraction in the entire nation".[9]

The most popular years were in the 1970s and early 1980s with a record crowd of almost 17,000 fans in 1979.[10] In the mid-1980s, the matchup was slated as the East US All-Stars vs. the West US All-Stars. Some believed that changing the format and eliminating the Pennsylvania All-Stars compromised the attendance of the game.[11] The attendance declined slightly in the mid to late 1980s, but the game still received national attention. It was well represented by all of the major recruiting figures in college basketball, and well respected in the sport of basketball.[12] ESPN continued to broadcast the game yearly. Ultimately, the game was hurt by the emergence of other high school All Star games that followed - most notably the McDonalds High School All-Star game (McDonald's All-American Team[9]) that began in 1977. Also, the NCAA enacted a rule that restricted athletes to play in only two All-Star games.

End of an era

The game suffered two major losses in the early 1990s when both Nike and the Dapper Dan Club pulled their sponsorship. With DiCesare's blessing, Sonny Vaccaro moved the game to Detroit in 1993. The 28th Annual Roundball Classic was the last to be played in Pittsburgh on April 11, 1992.

The demand for the game in Pittsburgh was great enough that the Civic Arena in cooperation with Pat DiCesare continued doing a high school All-Star basketball game with Asics as a sponsor and utilizing player recruiters from local colleges.[13] As expected, the Pittsburgh game could not get the talent that Vaccaro was able to get in Detroit. The last game in Pittsburgh was played in April 1994.[14]

Vaccaro took his game to Detroit in 1993 where it became known as Magic Johnson's Roundball. The game was played there for 7 years. It was moved to North Carolina for a few years until it finally was moved to Chicago in 2003 where it was simply named "The Roundball Classic". The game continued to have successful years after Pittsburgh. Most notably, it sold out the United Center in Chicago in 2003 when the game featured LeBron James. The last game was The 43rd Roundball Classic [10] played in Chicago in 2007.


Notable alumni include:[15][16][17]


  1. EA SPORTS Teams With Intersport and Basketball Legend Sonny Vaccaro for the 2001 EA SPORTS Roundball Classic; Annual High School All-Star Game Finds a New Home in Chicago. Business Wire, Jan 17, 2001 [1]
  2. Hanging 'em up. Dan Wetzel, Yahoo! Sports January 22, 2007
  3. [2]
  4. IT'S A BASKETBALL TOWN. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (PA) - Friday, March 14, 1997
  5. From Beatles to Broadway, DiCesare-Engler has booked it all. M. Snively. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. 12/22/1994
  6. Rounball Event Slated At Arena. The Valley Independent. Monessen PA. p 9
  7. New Castle News. Looking for Another Malone: Pros to scout Roundball Classic. 3/31/1975. P 22
  8. Sport Illustrated. An All-star Named Tom Is The Most Dapper Dan. April 13, 1970. Curry Kirkpatrick.
  9. 4th Roundball Classic is a strange one. Bob Vosburg. New Castle News. 4/1/1968. p. 20.
  10. Memories of Western Pennsylvania by Lisa A. Alzo, Alby Oxenreiter. p. 86
  11. ROUNDBALL NEEDS TO RECREATE ITS PAST. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (PA) - Sunday, April 19, 1992. RICH EMERT
  12. [3] Vitale describes The Roundball
  14. ROUNDBALL CLASSIC IS DISCONTINUED. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (PA) - Wednesday, February 1, 1995
  15. Roundballers in the NBA
  16. [4] Vitale describes The Roundball
  17. Stars come out again for Dapper Dan Roundball Classic. 3/1/2007. By Christopher Lawlor, USA TODAY [5]