Running professional basketball team ‘special’ for Middletown trio

Middletown natives and godbrothers Kevin L. Aldridge and Kelven Moss were considering getting into real estate together a couple of years ago, but when the idea came up to instead pursue a professional basketball-related business venture, it was a no-brainer.

Six months later, Aldridge brought in his cousin, Kevin S. Aldridge, as another partner and eventually the trio from Middletown launched the Ohio Kings as an American Basketball Association expansion team in September.

The Ohio Kings partnered with Cincinnati State as their home arena and opened their inaugural season Dec. 7. Going into Saturday’s game against the Cleveland Blazers, the Kings were 3-3. They will play one game, Feb. 23, at Middletown’s Wade E. Miller Arena, and the season runs through March.

“We were looking for business opportunities and decided we didn’t want to be landlords, so we came up with the idea to start a professional basketball team because that was something we enjoyed and had a passion for,” said majority owner and team president Kevin L. Aldridge, a pastor and entrepreneur who served as Middletown’s varsity girls basketball coach until this year when he stepped back into an assistant role at Hamilton. “The league is well-respected and has a rich history, so I reached out and had a meeting with the commissioner, liked what they had to say, so we pulled our resources together and started the process.”

Kevin L. Aldridge and Moss were easily convinced after the meeting with the ABA but knew they needed another investor. They asked Kevin S. Aldridge, and after attending a league meeting in Indianapolis, he decided the potential reward outweighed the potential risk of the investment.

Cincinnati seemed like the perfect market because of the history with the former Cincinnati Royals NBA team and the fact basketball was the only missing piece in the local sports scene.

“I thought there was a real opportunity there to start with something small with the Ohio Kings and see how we could grow it,” said minority owner and director of marketing and communications Kevin S. Aldridge, a West Chester resident who serves as the Opinion Editor at The Cincinnati Enquirer.

It helped that he would be going into business with two guys he knew well and cared about. The three partners have known each other since their youth and all three played basketball at Middletown. Kevin S. Aldridge graduated in 1992, Kevin L. Aldridge in 1998 and Moss graduated in 2001.

The project has at times tested their friendship, but the deep bonds they share allow them to disagree but maintain a level of respect for one another.

“In a lot of ways, it’s been what we thought it would be, but you don’t know what you don’t know until you get into it,” Kevin S. Aldridge said. “This is as big of a thing as we’ve ever done on our own. To build a team from scratch, marketing and selling tickets, it’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun being with guys I care about and enjoy being around. When you don’t see eye to eye on the direction you want to go, it makes it easier doing it with people you have a history with and enjoy working with.”

They each bring their own skills and areas of expertise to the table, too.

All three are knowledgeable about basketball, but after coaching in college and making connections there, Moss seemed the best fit for handling player-personnel. He also is the varsity boys’ basketball coach at Fenwick, a position he accepted last March after compiling a 64-27 record at Miami University Hamilton.

As majority owner and general manager of the Ohio Kings, Moss oversaw the recruiting and tryout process during the spring and summer of last year, holding tryout opportunities in Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati, before putting together the current roster of 15 players.

“I’m the young, fiery energy guy, and I bring connections from coaching college basketball,” Moss said. “I’ve got a lot of contacts to get solid players on the roster. I also bring creativity, thinking outside the box to know what people want to see at games.”

As a veteran journalist, Kevin S. Aldridge was the ideal person to handle the marketing and communications aspects. Kevin L. Aldridge deals with the league and has used his community ties and experience as an entrepreneur to handle meeting with business stakeholders and selling the vision to the community.

“The team concept is so important,” Kevin L. Aldridge said. “This is not for the faint at heart. We might be the individuals that brought it together, but it’s taken a life of its own. It’s a good challenge and something we want to grow together with. I wouldn’t want to do this with any other guys than Kelven and Kevin.”

The three team owners want to make the Ohio Kings into a competitive team that becomes the standard for the ABA. Right now, they consider the market to be all of Southwest Ohio, but hope to eventually grow it into other areas as well.

But no matter how big it gets, the founders of the Ohio Kings will always remember their roots, which is why the Feb. 23 game at Middletown will be so special.

“It’s special to be able to work on a project of this magnitude and share it with your hometown,” Kevin L. Aldridge said. “We still have a long way to go. We have aspirations of growing it, but to bring a game to Middletown is something we look forward to and hope the community gets behind.”

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