For Chris Glisson, it all started with a phone call from his brother Marty in 2008.
After Marty and his family moved from California to Knoxville, Tennessee, he had the idea that he and Chris should start a basketball team there.
Chris flew in, loved it and the two went to work founding the Knoxville Thunderbolts, a professional minor league team that competed in the American Basketball Association. But after one season, Chris and Marty formed an ownership group for the Thunderbolts and sold the remaining shares to Meadowlark Lemon, a former Harlem Globetrotter star.
Yet when Chris returned home to St. Joseph, Michigan, he wanted to do the same thing as in Knoxville. So in May 2009, Glisson founded the Lake Michigan Admirals, another professional minor league team that played in the ABA for two seasons before joining the Premier Basketball League in 2012.
In the years since, the Admirals have traveled to 11 different countries, won four international tournaments, earned back-to-back PBL Midwest championships in 2015 and 2016, visited over 225 schools, hosted 50 youth camps, raised over $400,000 for charities and connected with communities all over the world.
Of the 104 players who have donned an Admirals uniform since 2009, 78 have signed contracts overseas in 58 different countries, according to Glisson. And of those 78 signed, 26 players have earned Most Valuable Player honors in their respective country, such as former Benton Harbor High standout Rodney Alexander, who was named MVP in Uruguay last year and was the highest scoring player in Israel the year before.
Glisson said six more players are expected to stay and play with the Zhejiang Golden Bulls in the Chinese Basketball Association after the team’s five-game trip in five different cities in China that started on Thursday.
Over the years, five Harlem Globetrotters, including Antonio “Rainmaker” Griffin, and Robert Wegner, the tallest American basketball player at 7-foot-8.5, have also played for the Admirals.
“I contribute (the success) just to the networking and great relationships formed,” said Glisson, 48. “We started a program called 'church on the move' and it was about sharing God, not pushing God. I wasn’t hiring people because they’re believers. I was hiring them because they’re good people and all I did was share godly stories, things that change people’s lives and we get these players mentally, spiritually and physically prepared for the next level.”
And this year, Glisson is hoping for bigger and better things for the Admirals.
Glisson sold the team to Shantinique and Anthony James, a Warren couple, on March 5.
As a result, the Admirals will be moving from Berrien County to Macomb County, where they will play their home games at the Macomb Community College Sports Center in Warren for the 2018 season.
Shantinique, 25, is the CEO and will manage the overall operations while Anthony, 27, is the general manager and will handle the day-to-day court operations. Glisson will still be involved and serve as a consultant.
“We definitely are going to carry on the vision of keeping the mind, the body, the physical part positive and moving forward with that. We plan on continuing that because that’s our goal in life is to help people,” said Shantinique. “We do want to grow more than it did in Berrien County but we want the same success as far as in the actual mission and the outlook that the Lake Michigan Admirals already has.”
The team will hold tryouts from noon-4 p.m. on August 12 at the Warren Rec Center. The cost is $100 and players must be at least 18 years old.
According to Shantinique, players will have their travel, food and therapeutic service costs covered during the season in addition to participating in community service and getting an opportunity to advance their careers.
“My purpose is to help and any person or any Admiral that comes on the team they have to want the same. If we’re not helping the younger Admirals grow and want to fulfill their dreams or maybe whatever they feel like they should fulfill in life, then what are we doing?” Shantinique said. “It’s just to fulfill the mission and the statement that we offer that we want to work together to provide quality fun entertainment and just serve the community so that everyone can learn and grow together.”
Shantinique added marketing and promotional events are in the works to help expand the team’s fan base and the overall objective is simple: win the league, get players signed overseas and make an impact in the community.
“We’ve accomplished a lot in a small population,” said Glisson, “and I can’t even imagine what’s going to happen over here (in Warren).”
Lake Michigan Admirals
What: Professional minor-league basketball team
Founded: May 2009 by Chris Glisson
Owners: Shantinique and Anthony James
League: Premier Basketball
Home court: Macomb Community College Sports Center