Brooklyn Strong plays in honor of teammate shot 11 times

SPOKANE, Wash. - For many, Hoopfest is a chance to dust off the old kicks, get back on the court, and see if you and your old teammates can still play like you used to.

That was the plan for one team of former Eastern Washington University basketball players, until tragedy struck.

Every Hoopfest team has their own reason for playing. For Brooklyn Strong, it's to honor the triumph of one dear friend and former teammate. 

"This was going to be our year," said Alden Gibbs Jr., who not only played basketball, but also football at Eastern Washington University. 

Gibbs Jr. and his former EWU basketball teammates had big plans at the start of 2017, including reuniting on the court for their first ever Hoopfest together.

And then, a tragedy left Gibbs unable to play.  

In January, he was leaving a Seattle-area nightclub when he stepped in to stick up for a female being assaulted by a man.

"As i went to walk away, I turned my back, I guess one of his friends was behind me, and shot me 11 times," said Gibbs. 

As he laid in a hospital bed recovering, his friends started a movement to bring awareness to the senseless act of violence.

Kevin Winford is Gibbs' former teammate, and a player on their Hoopfest team this year, called Brooklyn Strong. "He's from Brooklyn, New York, so it just made sense. You know, surviving 11 shots, being from Brooklyn, that's Brooklyn Strong," said 

Gibbs wasn't even sure if he would make the trip from Seattle with his former teammates this year.

"It just doesn't feel right for me being out watching everybody participating in a sport that I love, that I went to college for, that I pretty much now just spectate," he said.  

But when he found out his former teammates would be playing in his honor, it was a no-brainer.

He even took on a new role coaching from the sidelines.

Gibbs said, "I'm here trying to support, get them riled up, you know get them going."

While their competitive drive used to fuel their desire to win, Brooklyn Strong is all about playing with purpose this year. 

 "It gives us the strength cause you know we take things for granted every day. I mean, in life. We wake up every morning and our feet touch the ground. We take that for granted. My beloved friend over here can't do that."