Craig Raucher, founder, Staten Island Basketball League.

The Staten Island Basketball League is speeding to the half century mark, and there’s no doubt it will get there.

The league, which was founded by Islander Craig Raucher in 1980, recently turned 43 years old and has played all these years at PS 8 in Great Kills, at 85 years old  PS 8 is one of the oldest public Schools on the Island. The school is run by Principal Lisa Esposito, who has given Raucher and his crew a place to play all these years.

“It’s one of the very few gyms left with the original wooden backboards intact,” said Raucher, the league’s commissioner who despite being 71 years old and having gone through two knee replacements and other various surgeries, still participates in the twice-a-week loop (Wednesday nights and Saturday mornings).

Raucher notes that the league has been the subject of numerous newspaper articles, television spots and various online publications throughout the years.

It has been a magnet for some of the best players from Staten Island and to a lesser degree Brooklyn over the years, Raucher said.

“It is run not as a traditional league but as a high-level pick-up basketball game,” said Raucher, whose league’s current players ages run from 30 to 75.

Raucher estimates that more than 360 players have competed in the league through the years.

“It’s a mix of players, who historically have been from every walk of life — rich, poor, upper class, lower class, middle class,” Raucher said. “We’ve had ex-convicts, police captains, detectives, fire department lieutenants, alcoholics anonymous attendees, former drug abusers and dealers, stockbrokers, surgeons, business men, CEOs, factory workers, emergency room physicians, inventors, retirees. Plumbers, carpenters, union men, non-union men, subway conductors, small business owners and big business executives. Gay men and straight men. College graduates, high school dropouts, PHD’s and computer nerds.

“There were even some with who were Autistic, had Tourette’s Syndrome or battled cancer. There have been players returning from knee, hip or shoulder replacements.”

Most of the leagues players have played high school or college ball or have played in leagues, pick-up games, parks and recreation centers.

“Almost all have been coached at one time or another with many being fundamentally sound,” Raucher said. “New players are evaluated and asked to stay or to go. Common denominators — every player plays to win and are good character people.”

Unfortunately, the league has lost many players through the years due to illness, 9/11, the pandemic, accidents and relocation.

“These are the facts about the Staten Island Basketball League, but facts alone do not provide the essence of the group,” Raucher said. “How does an ever-changing group of basketball-playing men transcend four-plus decades and still continue unchanged? Why does such a diverse group of players move through different political environments that have in recent years upended this country and still remain intact?

“Why has strife, dissension and ill will that permeates daily life in society not affected this group?”

The success is simple, according to Raucher. The league is based on the bedrock principles of high competition, skilled players, determination to win, fair play and sportsmanship.

“The longevity of the Staten Island Basketball League in terms of blending races, religions and diversity has been a testimonial to the power of competitive sports to bind all of the people together,” he said. “When you bring in the right kinds of people in tandem with the right values and mix in a highly competitive sport, absent politics, you then can understand the prescription for success. The longevity has been no accident.”

Raucher said that in its 43-year history, the league has never had an incident of racial animosity, no theft of or damage to property in the school and no police department incident reports filed. To boot, no fistfights and no racial slurs.

“Why? Because the group is run on three guiding principles that are made very clear to all who enter to play: Play competitively, play hard and respect your opponent,” summed up Raucher.