Local gay basketball teams build community and empower players
JAMES RUSSELL | Staff Writer
Local youth worker Dean Moore struggled with his sexual orientation growing up in a small town in East Texas. His struggle continued when he attended a conservative Christian university, where he studied biology.
“I was on the down low in college,” Moore said.
He was, however, comfortable playing sports. Playing basketball and tennis kept him going throughout school. Athletics helped him develop his physical and emotional health.
And unlike his degree, sports had a major influence on Moore well beyond college.
“I haven’t used my biology degree since graduating,” he admitted. But one habit stuck: playing sports.
“It’s a medium to accomplish goals,” he said.
Moore came of age, and came out of the closet, when he arrived in Dallas, thanks to the large gay sports scene here.
Getting involved and doing something he loved helped him come out.
“It was liberating. I was no longer running away from freedom,” Moore said.
Hearing a radio segment about the high number of black individuals living with HIV in South Dallas compelled him to act.
“I said, ‘We have to do something,’” Moore said.
And he did, founding the all-volunteer Score Moore Lives in 2013.
Among its programs is the Dallas Alternative Basketball Association, an affiliate of the National Gay Basketball Association. From Oct. 24-25, the DABA hosts 250-300 athletes representing 30 teams from across country for the Dallas Showcase Classic at the University of Texas at Arlington.
DABA, like all of SML’s programs, encourages healthy competition through athletics with the goal of impacting the lives of its participants.
“My whole philosophy is when you have a platform like this, you make it about more than events. You’re having fun while doing something,” Moore said. “We’re giving people a chance to be open and free from hiding. We want everyone to experience success.”
It’s about going beyond just basketball. “It’s about anything involving competition, like card games or tennis. We’re addressing and educating one another on issues impacting LGBT people.”
Moore stressed the importance of “meeting people where they are.”
Ray Person is a co-founder of Score Moore Lives and team captain for Dallas Thundercats 2, one of the three basketball teams under the SML’s umbrella. (The other two are the original Thundercats and Thundercats 3.)
Like Moore, he’s always loved basketball. And like Moore, he also didn’t feel comfortable about his sexual orientation.
Before branching out with buddies like Moore, Person initially played with the Dallas Ballers and Hot Shots, an affiliate of the Dallas Gay Basketball Association.
“[Playing basketball] was a catalyst for me. I was nervous about coming out,” Person said. But he was passionate about basketball. “Combining the two motivated me to push forward and come out.”
Coming out was a team effort. Person credits his fellow Thundercats for helping him with coming out and more. Playing basketball with others who were struggling made it easier for him to come out to family and friends. He also developed leadership skills.
“The expectation is we’re not just a team but a brotherhood that respect and support one another,” Person said. “We push one another to be successful in life. We want to be respected.”
The three teams consist of nine players each, who compete with other teams from around the country. They aren’t just basketball teams from Dallas, but ambassadors for Dallas as well.
“We want to put Dallas on the map,” Person said.
They’re pretty good ambassadors, too. A number of team members have received accolades, like Most Valuable Player Awards. The three teams have also won numerous division championships since 2012, including in Chicago, New Orleans and San Diego.
The Dallas Classic involves competing for the championship title, displaying the diversity of LGBT life in Dallas/Fort Worth to LGBT visitors and building camaraderie.
But it’s not just about the experience. At the heart of the game is the mission of Score Moore Lives: to change and impact individuals.
“We are all about fun. But we’re about brotherhood, too,” Person said. “Basketball is just the catalyst for getting us to where we want to be.”
Person is proud of the Dallas Thundercats’ accomplishments and of his community. He’s proud and thankful.
“I want to represent the community, the people and the best city that has impacted my life tremendously,” Person said.
The Dallas Showcase Classic takes place Friday, Oct. 24-25 at the University of Texas at Arlington’s Maverick Activities Center, 701 South Nedderman Dr., Arlington. Social events take place throughout the weekend at Cedar Springs Tap House, 4123 Cedar Springs Road. All tournaments are free. For more information visit NGBA.org.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 23, 2015.