CEO & Founder of ABIS
Gary Charles is an unheralded legend in the world of Grassroots basketball. Hailing from Roosevelt, Long Island, Charles founded a grassroots basketball program that has produced more than 20 NBA players, helped direct the legendary ABCD Camp, and started the Fab48 Tournament, which four years ago was changed to Las Vegas Big Time which was the original name of the Tournament that Sonny Vaccaro began in 1995. Currently, Charles is the CEO/Founder of Advancement of Blacks in Sports (ABIS), an organization he founded to increase Racial equity in collegiate and professional athletics.
Charles’ life has revolved around sports for as long as he can remember. Dr. J grew up in the same town as well. He also grew up with Eddie Murphy and Chuck D of Public Enemy. Bios of athletes like Bill Russell, Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, etc., were his favorite books.
After graduating high school, Charles attended the nation’s first HBCU at Cheyney University, where he encountered hall-of-fame basketball coaches John Chaney and Vivian Stringer. He then went to work on Wall Street for more than two decades.
Still, Charles’ love for sports persisted. He started the Long Island Panthers, a grassroots basketball program, while working as a Systems Programmer on Wall Street. The Panthers have produced dozens of NBA players, including Lamar Odom, Wally Szcerzbiak, and Joakim Noah. Charles’ work attracted the likes of former sneaker executive Sonny Vaccaro, who famously signed Michael Jordan to his first shoe deal. Then working for Adidas, Vaccaro signed the Panthers to a shoe deal, the first grassroots program to receive such an honor. Through his relationships on the high school basketball circuit, Charles was also instrumental in helping Adidas discover and eventually sign future Hall-of-Famer Kobe Bryant.
Charles later landed the role of associate director of the ABCD Camp, a Camp that consistently attracted top recruits during its heyday from 1984-2006. Future NBA All-Stars like LeBron James, Kobe, Carmelo Anthony, and James Harden shined at the camp.
Inspired by Vaccaro, who he watched launch Adidas first sponsored tournament, Charles started what would become The Las Vegas Fab48 Tournament in 2010. The tournament has since attracted a star-studded lineup of both recruits – Bronny James, 2021 NBA No. 1 overall pick Cade Cunningham and even 2022 NBA Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes – and fans including LeBron, DWade, Shaquille O’Neal, and former boxing champion Roy Jones.
Nowadays, Charles is focused on diversifying the world of sports. Inspired by the very same people he looked up to as a youth, Charles’ ABIS boasts a coalition of coaches and competitors from various sports across the country. Through producing a list of top Black head coaches, teaching financial literacy to student-athletes, and hosting panels, ABIS aims to be a difference.
“For over 30 years, I’ve watched the inequity that goes on in the game,” Charles said. “What we want to do is to stop some of this. ABIS wants to be the Voice For Racial Equity in Sports. We want to stop the discrimination of Black coaches, the players, Black administrators, the vendors.”