They played together coming up in Stockton some in Manteca. They played against each other throughout the valley. Some represented East Union some Sierra, while others repped Lathrop High. Now united as one, they are Team Trouble. Representing the Central Valley in the American Basketball Association professional league, they are currently ranked in the top 20 out of 140 teams this season.
Many of the team members were already playing together in the City of Lathrop’s men’s basketball recreational league. James Paul, raised in Stockton, felt their passion, spirit, and love of the game watching them play and was compelled to do more. “I recognized that these guys needed someone to step up and organize an opportunity to allow them to compete on a much larger stage. And that exploration led me to the American Basketball Association,” Paul recalls.
The ABA had originated during a time when numerous professional sports leagues were just starting to gain traction. When the league officially merged with the NBA in 1976, the Indiana Pacers, Denver Nuggets, New Jersey Nets, and San Antonio Spurs along with Julius Irving, Moses Malone, George Gervin, and others were all part of the deal. The freewheeling and flashy styles of the ABA was not absorbed by the NBA. And neither was their colorful red, white, and blue official ball. Business owners Joe Newman and Richard P. Tinkham relaunched the ABA in 1999, spanning the league across 6 regional divisions and 4 global teams. Anyone can own an ABA franchise, but not everyone will be successful.
“We are simple local folks who are not as focused on the bottom line as we are on the positives we bring to the players, fans, families, and community that we all live in and share,” stated Paul. “To see these guys have the opportunity to play for their families, friends, and hometown fans, after what they have accomplished in college and beyond, is extremely gratifying.”
James Paul claimed an ABA franchise market and became the owner of the team in 2016. Just before the major move, he was racing around in his souped up sports cars competing in the National Auto Sport Association (NASA) and Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) leagues. His previous basketball experience was as a player himself on Bear Creek High School’s team. With a degree in International Business Management from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, he established a healthy career in fresh produce sales and marketing.
He recruited his friends, former teammates, and his uncle, Lincoln High graduate class of ‘72 Andy Oliveira, to join him on his journey. With a team of experienced coaches and an opportunity to give back to the community on a large scale, James Paul and Team Trouble began making history. The Team’s inaugural season at the Stockton Arena had free admission; possibly the first-ever professional sports organization in the U.S. to offer it.
Home games are now held at Lathrop High (or East Union High) since the Stockton Arena was taken over by a G League team.
“We were welcomed with open arms by (City of Manteca) Mayor Steve DeBrum,” said General Manager Jovan Bankston. Bankston was a former teammate of Paul’s and has high hopes this season. “Goals for Team Trouble of course is to win an American Basketball Association Championship. Other goals would be to become role models in the community, which can be done by volunteering, mentoring, coaching. Lastly, I hope to make the members of the team proud of their accomplishments; give them memories they can look back on and tell their grand kids how amazing their run was!”
More sponsors are needed to keep the team going and each player looks forward to sharing their passion for basketball with the youth. Season passes and tickets for each game are now available to purchase online via the team’s website.
New players this season include Tim Howell, Shawn Smith, Mike McChristian, Mikel Brigham, Leo Svete, Booker Shabaaz, Cameron Womack, Nilo Yuson, Durann Williams, Ryan Gaarder, Aaron Ramos, and DeAndre Winston.
All games are streamed on the team’s page via Facebook Live and other social media outlets are kept up-to-date on game days. Stay tuned Central Valley – Here Comes Trouble!