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Meet Akron’s professional basketball team

Akron Aviators Founder and Owner Brian “Essince” Collins, right, pictured with Malik Billingsley at the 2019 ABA All-Star Game. (Photo courtesy of the Akron Aviators).

Legal News Reporter

Published: January 13, 2020

The Akron Aviators––Akron’s professional basketball––is in the middle of its third season in the American Basketball Association.
Team founder and owner Brian “Essince” Collins said he is proud of the success of the team and its relationship with the community.
“The ABA emphasizes community involvement as well as playing quality basketball,” said Collins and the team has held charity events for the Salvation Army and the Akron Regional Food Bank, among other causes.
The six-foot seven-inch Collins played basketball and volleyball at Stow-Munroe Falls High School and lives in Stow after a globetrotting life in the music industry.
A rapper in high school, he toured the world performing and promoting other musicians while creating Royal Heir Entertainment (https://www.royalheirent.com/), his primary business. Royal Heir gave him the business understanding and stability to start the Aviators, said Collins.
Collins also had the experience of starting a college-level basketball team while studying in Thailand.
Organizing those two disparate entities he said “gave me the experience to start and run a professional team.”
The ABA and the Aviators play a 22-game schedule running from November into March.
The Aviators play their home games at the Helen Arnold Community Learning Center gymnasium on 450 Vernon Odom Blvd. in Akron. They also practice at that gym on Thursdays.
“The city of Akron has been very supportive of us,” Collins said, adding that the Canton Charge, the Cavalier’s developmental team, has also shown them support.
The Aviator’s undisputed star is six-foot guard Malik Billingsley, said Collins. Billingsley is a Twinsburg native who played collegiately at Muskingham University.
“Malik won both the skills contest and the three-point contest at the 2019 All-Star Game,” he said.
The current American Basketball Association is a resurrection of the old ABA—the league that brought us Julius Erving, the 3-point shot and several current NBA teams, said Collins.
The basketball league is divided into six geographic districts. Championships are won by first winning the division tournament, and then the league tournament.
Currently boasting over 150 teams across the United States, the league was brought back to life by two former ABA executives from Indianapolis.
One of them, Joseph Newman, had nothing but praise for Collins.
“He is an exceptional person,” said Newman.
The league has developed a way for small business owners to become involved in professional sports, said Newman, giving them all of the help that they would need to start and grow their businesses.
But ultimately, he said, it is up to the owners themselves to put in the effort needed to be successful.
Newman said that Collins exemplifies what the league stands for.
In a short time, Newman said that Collins has developed not only the Aviator team, but a music performance integrated into the games called ABA Fusion.
Newman said he loves Akron. The league is worldwide and Newman said that he expects it to expand to over 200 teams by 2021.
“We have teams in major cities, but Akron is the perfect market for the ABA,” Newman said.
There are no other professional sports teams in the city, he said, but it is also the kind of close-knit community that would respond to a community-oriented organization like the Aviators.
Billingsley said that he has been offered several chances to play overseas, particularly in China. Although tempted to go, he said that the fact that he is a new father keeps him here in Akron.
“I just didn’t want to put a new family through what we would have to go through over there,” he said.
Collins said that Billingsley also plays a hand in bringing in talent.
“His friends are good basketball players,” he said, and have a great deal to do with the current talent on the team.
“They made me the face of the Aviators,” said Billingsley, a role that he willingly takes on. “The community events are sweet. It’s great to be a role model for the kids of Akron. Who wouldn’t want to be that?”
But it is still basketball, and it is the game that drives the players and the organization.
For Billingsley’s part, he said that “this is the best team I’ve ever played on. And the league is great. Playing with the Aviators has been nothing but love.”
For game dates and times, tickets, and more information about the team go to: https://akronaviators.com/.