The Philadelphia Greek Basketball League (PGBL) was created by Bill Zonios and John Vasiliou in 2007 and is the premier Greek adult basketball league in the USA. Back then the concept of creating an adult basketball league in the Philadelphia area was not a new idea, however, no organizations were able to create and maintain such a league in the past. Once people of Greek decent would finish playing in the Church Metropolis GOYA organized Delaware Valley Greek Orthodox Basketball League (DVGOBL), they would not have the opportunity to continue playing basketball after the age of 18. This was unfortunate because many of the Greeks in the Philadelphia area loved the sport and enjoyed competing against each other and socializing with fellow Greeks from all over the area.
Bill Zonios and John Vasiliou competed against each other for many years in the DVGOBL and shared the same love for the game of basketball. They both initially accepted the fact that no Greek adult basketball league would be sustainable in the Philadelphia area. However it was Zonios, who after a few years away from playing in the DVGOBL, made a telephone call to Vasiliou urging him to work together with him to start a Greek adult league. Zonios would not accept no for an answer, even when Vasiliou had several doubts about such a league succeeding. After discussing it several times during the summer of 2007 Zonios and Vasiliou finally came to an agreement that they would both give it their best efforts to start a league and sat down to draft a proposal on how the league would be organized and a set of rules and regulations to follow.
They also reached out to the local Greek churches to see if any church would provide them with gym availability. St. Demetrios Church in Upper Darby was the first to volunteer their gymnasium to the PGBL at no cost at all. They were just proud to host Greek adults in their facility every week during the fall and winter months. Zonios and Vasiliou originally came up with the name the “Greater Philadelphia Greek American Basketball League”; however, they cut that down to the “Philadelphia Greek Basketball League” since they believed PGBL sounded much better than GPGABL.
In the fall of 2007 Zonios and Vasiliou went around to friends promoting this idea and received a very positive response from many Greek adults. They were able to get 7 teams together and they sat down with each team’s captain to put together an official schedule and name each team. It was then decided that teams would not be structured like the DVGOBL, with each team corresponding to a church and players only able to play for that territory. Instead, the PGBL teams would be named however they like and players able to play on whichever team they choose. This idea of playing with friends and not forced to play for any specific church is one of the most important and vital aspects of the PGBL. It is the primary reason the league has been able to sustain itself for many years and limits animosity between Greeks from different areas of Philadelphia. In the PGBL, Greeks from Upper Darby, Broomall, Cherry Hill, Elkins Park, Media, Center City etc…..can all play on the same team if they choose so!
After months of planning, a dream was finally a reality. The inaugural 2007-08 PGBL season finally kicked off on October 4th, 2007 at 7pm with team “UDG” playing against team “FREEZE”. Several seasons have since gone by and the PGBL is now a thriving Greek adult basketball league with 10 teams, over 120 players, its own website (www.phillygreekball.com), anonymous beat writer (Mr. PGBL), system for tracking players’ stats, and even getting attention from many local and international Greek news media outlets!
Bill Zonios and John Vasiliou continue to proudly promote and run the PGBL. It is a league that brings together the Greek community of Philadelphia in many more ways than just basketball. It is just as much a social gathering as it is an athletic gathering. People of all ages get together and see friends they normally would not see on a regular basis. Thursday nights for much of the Greek community of Philadelphia is now known as “PGBL night”. All members are proud to participate in this league as an athlete, spectator, or worker of the snack stand! However, some of the older athletes in the PGBL remember what it was like before the year 2007, when organized basketball did not exist for Greek adults after the age of 18…..and if you take the time to look into the eyes of those special tireless individuals during a PGBL gameday, you will notice a quiet & confident sense of pride that is able to scream loudly.….”WE LOVE THURSDAY NIGHTS!!!“……without even making a sound.