One of the first things people heard when they made their debut visit to the original Leopards was Simon Mattick on the microphone. Having previously been involved at the club’s predecessors Kingston and Guildford, but not quite old enough to have been around when the club started pre-World War II as Central YMCA.
i was privileged to be asked by Ed and Annie-T Simons (the owners) plus Barry Dow (RIP) to be the match day announcer for the new Leopards BBL franchise which was established at The London Arena for the 1994-5 season, following the demise of the Guildford Kings and was fortunate to enjoy their nine season journey in the BBL, meeting some wonderful people and watching some fantastic basketball along the way and I have some great memories of that period.
I was privileged to have seen some fantastic, some charismatic and some great “stalwart” players in action wearing the Leopards colours, starting with Adrian Cummings (RIP), Carl Miller, Karl Brown, Robert Youngblood and Ronnie Baker in that first season. David Attewell, Rico Alderson, Rod Brown, Eric Burks, Tim Davis, Martin Henlan, Rashod Johnson, Jason Kimbrough, Michael Martin, Brian Moore, Steve Ogunjimi, Mo Robinson, John Tresvant, John White, Yorick Williams, among many others, were to follow
It was a pleasure, too, to watch the coaches at work: Billy Mims with Mark Clark and Rohan Thompson; Bob Donewald Jnr,; Chris Pullem; Mike Taylor
Obviously the “golden” seasons of 96/97 (BBL League Champions and Cup Winners, Play Off Runners Up) and 97/98 (BBL League Champions) were particular high spots, alongside the intense rivalry between Leopards and London Towers, with Billy against Kevin Cadle (RIP). Team sport at its best. So many nail biting encounters….one of my favourite games was at Wembley Court when Leopards came back from 22 points to win (96/97 season, I think). If anyone has any Sky footage of that, I’d love to see it again !!
The 1999/2000 season saw the club move to Brentwood. The 2000/01 season was eventful and memorable for many other reasons, not least the fact that Leopards ended at least 4 matches with less than 5 players on court….
Sadly, the BBL Franchise ended at the end of 2002/03 season. There was no Leopards in the 2003/04 season but, with great efforts from a hardcore of Leopards fans, and after a timely exchange with Mark Clark (then Ware Rebels Director of Basketball), the Rebels EBL franchise was secured and “Essex & Herts Leopards” were born for the 2004/05 season and became regulars in Division One playing games at various venues across East London, Essex and Hertfordshire. Key honours were the Div One League, Play Off and Cup “treble” in 2011/12 and the League title in 2014/15. ‘Blood, Ronnie B ant Steve O all returned to play their parts at some stage in the second phase of the club. Even though I wasn’t involved with the club, I still followed their progress with keen interest.
Anyway, a big thank you from me to everyone who was involved in any way at Leopards – owners, players, coaches, staff, supporters, sponsors – and best wishes for the future to Oakland Wolves!”