Essence Festival usually reigns supreme in New Orleans during the Fourth Of July weekend. Year after year, thousands come from near and far to celebrate Black culture and to witness performances from music’s most soulful acts. This year, for the first time in a long time, there was a new wave in The Big Easy during this amazing weekend: the inaugural NOLA League Pro/Am Tournament. For a few hours on Saturday and Sunday, cool kids, hoopers, millennials of all demographics and even some celebrities made their way to Xavier University’s Convocation Center to help Alexis Miller (daughter of Corey “C Murder” Miller) break her new event. The list of celebs included: Rotimi of the hit TV show Power, Chase N’ Cashe who sponsored a Crown Bearers Records team, NBA big man Greg Monroe who played on, and sponsored his own team, Curren$y with his Jet Life Athletics team, and Jason Mitchell of Straight Outta Compton, who hosted the tournament.

What Is NOLA League? 

NOLA League is a non-profit organization created to provide a constructive outlet for the New Orleans community by uniting at-risk youth, local athletes and professional players, both on and off the court, to build relationships in a fun and positive environment. NOLA League provided a hub for amateur creatives and ballers to collaborate, and engage with celebrities during one of the biggest weekends the south has to offer. Alexis Miller says, “I thought of the idea for NOLA League two years ago at IHOP after attending B Mike’s Project Be, he (B Mike) was providing an outlet for painters, and musicians, and placing them around creators like Erykah Badu and David Banner, and I wanted NOLA League to be the final piece to the enriching puzzle in New Orleans.”

Chase N’ Cashe is for the people…

Chase N’ Cashe gave the green light for NOLA League to use his likeness very early in the promotion process of the inaugural pro/am tournament. Next, Chase signed on to sponsor his own team, Crown Bearers Records, then later agreed to headline the performances on the final day. What Chase N’ Cashe means to New Orleans is irreplaceable, and the bridge he connects from the streets to the mainstream is one that he works endlessly to strengthen. Chase says of NOLA League ’16,

Mad amounts of young kids in New Orleans look up to Chase N’ Cashe, because of where he’s taken his career, so to have him reciprocate that energy, and mingle among the spectators was a real refresher, and a true testament of him not having an ego. One downfall of Chase’s NOLA League experience was his team falling to Jet Life Athletics in the 1st round, but he handled it like a champ, even though he said he was going to take a picture of the scoreboard and photo shop it to a Crown Bearers Records victory. Chase N’ Cashe is truly for the people, specifically for the people of New Orleans, and his determination to better the people of New Orleans oozed through his aura during NOLA League ’16.

Oh snap, Curren$y is REALLY here…

Speaking of Jet Life, their captain Spitta is always randomly pulling up places in New Orleans, but the shock factor of being in the building with him always feels as dope as the first time. This time, Curren$y gave permission for NOLA League to publicize his attendance, and using his likeness proved to be super beneficial. Spitta’s relationship and respect for C Murder, along with his interest in having a sponsored Jet Life Athletics team, made him a huge supporter of the inaugural tournament, and ultimately fueled his pull up. DJ Shaad Smooth had no shortage of music to spin when Spitta walked in, as he’s been dropping music at an alarming, but rewarding rate. This is a familiar practice for New Orleans rappers, as Wayne dwelled in this realm for the majority of his career. With dropping as much music as he drops, and touring as frequently as he tours, having him pull up to NOLA League left a lot of attendees feeling like, “Oh snap, Curren$y is REALLY here…”. Curren$y’s Jet Life team had the sickest jerseys (I tried to get one, but you know..coins). After JLA defeated CBR, Spitta dipped out, but not before he snapped it up with day 1 fans, and spread a bunch of positive vibes. La la la…

Jason Mitchell made that hosting job look “Eazy”…

The story of Jason Mitchell ending up at NOLA League is one for the ages. Alexis desired to have Jason for awhile. Following his breathtaking performance in Straight Outta Compton, Jason’s stardom skyrocketed in New Orleans, and around the world in general. Due to this, Alexis found it extremely necessary to have him in attendance. Now that the goal was set, the focus switches to reaching out, and actually getting him in the building. During a meeting at a local boutique in New Orleans, that goal was met. Alexis spots Jason shopping in the boutique, and shoots her shot for the whole ’16. When Jason hears about NOLA League, he jumps on board immediately, even bringing his own ideas to the table. He agrees to hit the mic to handle crowd control, and he truly bodied the job. Jason Mitchell is a hero in New Orleans, he was perfect for the role of Eazy E, and he represents who so many youth of the city are. The love he showed at NOLA League most certainly gained him a slue of new supporters, and I’m sure he’s going to be present at a lot of future progressive events such as this one. Jason Mitchell bought out Rotimi of the hit TV series Power, they both took pictures with fans, and spoke to as many people as approached them, love. ESPN 1420 caught up with Jason Mitchell at NOLA League.

High Risk, High Reward…

The first challenge Alexis Miller faced was coming up being the daughter of the legendary C Murder. As a female in her field, and dawning the Miller last name, Alexis has Harlem shaken through the pressure tremendously. The next challenge was taking on an event as big as NOLA League Tournament ’16, during Essence Festival. Trying to fit basketball games, performances, vendors, and celebrity appearances into one jam packed weekend was a high risk, but it paid off in a major way. A lot of times event curators rely solely on the names on the card, and very minutely on the actual content of the event. In NOLA League’s inaugural year, there wasn’t this long, profound list of celebrities to use for promo. To the celebs who were in the building listed earlier, highest respect for taking a chance on a grassroots movement, and changing the image of it in the rookie season. We’re excited to see all who attend next year, and to see the return of the celebs who attended this year and track the progress of their steamrolling careers.