On Sept. 18-19, the NBA will be bringing their Jam Session festival through the heart of the prairies and setting up shop at the Forks for two days of competitions, clinics, contests and even a slam dunk exhibition.

Beginning Saturday morning, the Jam Session festival will feature various free activities for both spectators and participants. As part of Saturday’s festivities, fans will be able to take part in one of several interactive clinics, including a basketball clinic, a dancer clinic and a fit clinic.

The basketball clinic is designed to improve a person’s skills by focusing on individual aspects of the game — shooting, dribbling, passing — with help from several of the city’s best coaches.

The dance clinic, like the basketball clinic, allows spectators to watch dance teams perform live but also invites fans to learn a move or two on the court or just get an autograph and a photo with their favourite dancer. The fit clinic is aimed to teach more fundamental lessons about living healthy, active lifestyles, giving fitness tips for differing ages and allowing participants to
try out various activity stations on site.

One court over, fans will be able to compete in a number of three-point competitions with prizes available for the top scorers. Saturday will also feature appearances from eight-year Harlem Globetrotter veteran Buckets Blakes and Philadelphia 76ers small forward Thaddeus Young. Young was selected by the 76ers as the 12th overall pick of the 2007 NBA Draft. In 216 games with Philadelphia, Young has started in 138, averaging 29.1 MPG, 4.8 RPG, and 12.4 PPG.

Saturday wraps up with the finals of the three-point shootout tournament followed by a slam dunk exhibition featuring some of the best local talent the city has to offer. For those lucky enough to receive an invitation, the NBA Jam Session then moves to Republic Night Club for a VIP invite-only party starting at 9 p.m. All registered tournament participants receive free admission.

On Sunday, the Jam Session resumes with an all day 3-on-3 tournament, division including under-12 coed, 13-15, 16-18, and 19+. The tournament concludes at the end of the day with the 19+ division winners awarded a trip to Toronto to compete in the Jam Session 3-on-3 national finals.

Although the event is put on by the NBA, Basketball Manitoba will also have a hand in helping manage the weekend’s festivities.

“In this case it’s a no brainer for us to get involved in some capacity,” said Basketball Manitoba executive director Adam Wedlake. “That includes helping to promote the event locally to the basketball community that we’re already very in tune with, making sure that there are local basketball communities involved. We’re also managing the volunteer base as well which helps manage and run the event on an administrative side of things.”

As far as attracting people to the game of basketball, there seems to be a big upside to the Jam Session. Wedlake, in particular, sees the festival as a good first contact, an initial step that will draw some people into the basketball community as active, contributing members.

“A lot of times these kind of events attract general families or just general people that may have watched the game on television but have never participated and this is a good opportunity [where] parents can either get their children involved in the game or maybe become a coach themselves or a referee.”

Of course, as we all know, nice weather is never something that can be easily relied upon in Winnipeg. In all likelihood the Jam Session will go off without a hitch, maybe without even a cloud in the sky, but Winnipeggers should still be prepared to bring extra layers as mid-September could provide some chilly basketball.

“We’re actually the [third stop] on their tour. It continues after us with Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal and those go later into September and into October so it could have been a lot worse I guess. In October there could be snow on the ground here for all we know,” laughed Wedlake.

“But we’re ready if we’ve got a wet, rainy day on the Sunday. We’ve got a backup indoor venue which is not as nice as it would be if it were outdoors but it would take care of the games at least and get the 3-on-3 games in play. That’s the nature of anything outdoors, though.”

Admission to both the NBA Jam Session Saturday festival and to watch the Sunday tournament is free of charge.