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How Dominique Wilkins’ broadcast booth visit provided the perfect omen for Legion FC’s future

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 06/22/23, 1:20PM EDT


Nwegbo’s goal moments after newest investor in the Magic City club’s arrival capped exciting week for Birmingham

Birmingham Legion FC's Diba Nwegbo receives congratulations from his teammates after opening the scoring against Loudoun United FC, a moment that came with new club investor Dominique Wilkins in the broadcast booth. | Photo courtesy Birmingham Legion FC

As is customary, new Birmingham Legion FC investor Dominique Wilkins visited the broadcast booth for the club’s game against Loudoun United FC as part of his media rounds on Wednesday night.

As it happened, the timing couldn’t have proven more serendipitous.

Not 25 seconds had passed after Wilkins’ introduction by play-by-play announcer Blake Gardner than Diba Nwegbo’s second goal in as many games had put the hosts ahead at Protective Stadium, paving the way to a 2-0 victory that continued the club’s turnaround in league form.

“Hey, I need to come up here more often,” Wilkins said with a laugh as the players and crowd celebrated down below.

As omens go, it was perfect, and added to what has been a gamechanger of a week for Legion FC.

Tuesday’s announcement that the NBA legend had become part of the organization – officially announced on ESPN’s First Take, complete with Stephen A. Smith being gifted his own jersey – resonated across the sporting landscape.

It also provided plenty to look forward to for everyone within the club.

“It’s a fantastic day for the club,” said Legion FC Head Coach Tom Soehn. “I was a really big fan of the NBA, and I was a card collector, and I probably have about 50 of his cards sitting somewhere where I might get him to sign a couple.

“It was the best for me, one of the best leagues I had seen with Jordan and Bird and Magic, I mean, amazing. Dominique was a big part of that, too. Adding someone with his stature and someone that’s so humble is an amazing thing for our club and it'll help our club grow.”

Following the success in the stands that marked Birmingham’s run to the Quarterfinals of the 2023 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup earlier this month, the energy around Legion FC grew again with Wednesday night’s victory providing another lift in the standings. Nwegbo’s first-half finish was supplemented by Neco Brett’s fourth goal of the season late on as the Jamaican scored for the first time since his return from injury.

After more than a month on the sidelines, Brett has now notched a goal and assist in two substitute appearances. His finish against Loudoun was vintage as he slipped between defenders to receive a pass from Enzo Martinez before slotting his shot into the left corner of the net.

With the collective attacking talent Legion FC can call on – including emerging first-year pro Nwegbo – the perennial playoff contender looks to have a battle for playing time on its hands that should push players and the team to higher levels.

“It’s pretty fun,” said Brett. “You have to always be alert. It’s challenging because in any game, the coaches change the front three or four, so that’s always good because in order to win a championship, you’re going to need a couple guys from the bench coming in to help, so that’s very good. It’s challenging having everyone push each other. I think when we get that chemistry right, I think it’s going to be dangerous.”

As someone who knew a thing or two about scoring during his playing career, Wilkins was likely impressed, but he might be the perfect avatar for where Legion FC is headed. With the club on the rise on the field and off, a magical season could be on the cards for the team from the Magic City.

“You saw with 18,000 people here, our guys had an edge to them that only 18,000 can bring out,” said Soehn. “It was an amazing feeling, and bringing Dominique aboard, it puts a new layer of excitement around the team and might bring some basketball players out to watch us play because he is there.

“It’s just more opportunities to make new fans, and our guys have to back it up with solid play. I think having him around is going to be real positive.”

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