BBL Snapshot is a Double Clutch content series looking at the most iconic images, history and stories from the British Basketball League
Getting a poster-dunk is every young basketball player’s dream. It’s out of the question for most people, but there have been some epic dunks in BBL history: Leicester Riders’ TraVonn Wright on TJ Robinson of the Sheffield Sharks in 2015; Myles Hesson all over the Sheffield Sharks in 2012 while playing for the Mersey Tigers; or Adrian Cummings’ breakaway nail in the coffin of Kingston’s blowout championship win over the Thames Valley Tigers in 1991-92.
But one of the best poster pictures in BBL history took place in 2019, when the London Lions played the London City Royals at the BBL Trophy Final. The only problem? It wasn’t a dunk.
“It’s funny. If this is a play that I’m thinking of, I think I got fouled, and I might not have even made the dunk.”
You can forgive Matthew Bryan-Amaning for not being sure. He has dunked the basketball in high school in the United States, at NCAA level, internationally for GB Basketball, for teams in Europe, Argentina, Japan and others, so it’s tough to remember a single dunk in one game in the BBL, but he’s not wrong.
“But yeah, it actually makes for a great picture.
“We joke around about photos and stuff like that, regardless of the situation or whatever happens at the end of the play, you’d be like ‘oh, that would have made for a great picture’ but yeah, on this play I got fouled and missed the dunk.”
While the result of this effort might not be memorable, the game was. It went to overtime on a clutch three from Ed Lucas, with an assist from Bryan-Amaning.
“The whole game was crazy.”
The Royals went on to win, and picked up their first piece of silverware in what would be a short, fast and exciting time on the London City Royals rollercoaster. The man who took the photograph, Mansoor Ahmed, loved seeing a second team in London. He said: “It was such a breath of fresh air seeing two teams in the nation’s capital go up against each other. Every encounter was a close game, and it brought up memories of the 1990s with the Leopards and the Towers. But most of the London City Royals players had played with the guys from the opposition.”
The Royals splashed the cash and got the best talent, but the London Lions had only brought Justin Robinson back to Britain a few years earlier and put a solid team around him. This is something Bryan-Amaning picked up on. He said: “Apart from maybe two guys, most of the players on both sides were born or raised in London.
“All guys that we’d grown up playing against, and with, each summer in different tournaments – we’re all grown men now. Some guys went to Europe, some went to the United States for school and whatnot, and then we came back and it was the first year with the franchise and we had two London teams in the Finals. It was special for the London guys, because we kind of have this attitude that we’re the best around the UK. Just being able to get there was an amazing experience.”
According to Dave Owen Basketball, Bryan-Amaning averaged 16.9 points and 6.5 rebounds for the Royals that season. The following year, he increased this to 17.3 and 7.5 with 2.5 assists for the Surrey Scorchers after the London City franchise shut down. He then joined Darados in Mexico to close out the year.
At 33, Bryan-Amaning is still in demand by overseas teams who are willing to pay a good price for his talents. However, a return to the BBL, or a non-playing role in future of UK basketball, isn’t out of the question, as he explained: “I’ve got a son now, who is nine, so for him to come and see me play every home game and not having to do much driving to games or training, I think it will work for me personally, and to see his growth as a young child and he can see what his parents love to do. The only negative thing I would say is you get more ticket requests when you’re back home! But I think the ultimate goal for any player, if you’re not playing in the NBA, is that you want to play in your home country.”
Bryan-Amaning has done the rounds in British basketball – including stints as a member of the national team up until 2014, and more recently with this nearly dunk poster for the London City Royals, as well as on the London Lions, Worcester Wolves and the Cheshire Phoenix. Even if he doesn’t quite finish every dunk like he used to, he still looks good doing it.