Big Time Hoops founder Tom Bard (far right) with his girlfriend April Rangel (left) and the couple's son Bryson. Credit: Courtesy of Tom Bard

FORT KENT, Maine — What started out as a St. John Valley basketball enthusiast chatting with some of his local idols on a podcast has turned into a celebration of players’ achievements all over Maine.

Tom Bard, a former Fort Kent basketball player who now lives in the Bangor area, started recording “Big Time The Podcast” in 2018, which features Maine athletes, coaches and icons reminiscing about their experiences in sports.  

Bard grew up with a love of basketball and wanted to keep pursuing the game even if he could not do so on the court. He also wanted to shine a light on high school basketball players who otherwise would go unnoticed. That gave him the motivation to start what has become a statewide podcast presence in sports.

“Like a lot of people up there, I idolized a lot of the guys that came up before me and thought it would be a cool way to connect them and try something new,” Bard said. “It actually started off as kind of a joke. I had guys like my brother and close friends on and then it kind of became something.”

Bard interviewed nearly 50 northern Maine sports legends such as Larry Murphy, Emery “Legs” Labbe and Laughne Berthiaume.

Big Time The Podcast transformed into Big Time Hoops when Bard decided he wanted to provide a platform for all Maine basketball players to be seen on an equal playing field regardless of what town or school they were in.

Bard said he remembered from his own experience in 2005 what it was like to play basketball for the Fort Kent Warriors in the tournament at Bangor auditorium.

“Being from up there, I know the feeling of being overlooked or doubted because of our location. I’ve tried to put something together so regardless of where you are, you can be seen,” Bard said.

The Big Time Hoops Facebook page has nearly 3,000 followers.

“On any typical day you can check out the page and see a dunk from a game in Portland, a buzzer beater from somebody in Calais, a crazy trick shot from a seventh grader in Fryeburg or a 1000-point scorer from Fort Kent,” Bard said.

Bard has a day job as an information technology professional for the Maine Air National Guard. He said it helps that Big Time Hoops has grown in popularity so people come to him with basketball news and highlights.

“Luckily it’s at a point now where I wake up in the morning and I’ve got anywhere from 25-50 messages of scores, pictures and videos that people send to get posted,” Bard said. “When I first got started, I’d have to visit every newspaper site to try and find 5-7 scores to post with a picture of the player who played well that night and it would take over an hour to put together those 5-7 scores.”

To further celebrate Maine basketball players, Big Time Hoops is hosting an All Star Weekend on March 11 at the Eastern Maine Sports Academy in Veazie that will feature a.legends game between former players including four Mr. Basketballs.

There will be a children’s basketball clinic in the afternoon, a dunk contest and a three-point shootout, followed by a boys and girls All Star game in the evening. Money raised after costs will support a scholarship fund for Maine high school basketball players.

It will be free to the kids who participate.

Bard said he enjoys Big Time Hoops because it keeps him connected to the sport he so enjoys.

“Basketball has been a part of my life since I was 5 years old. It’s therapeutic even to this day; it’s allowed me to meet people and bond over something that I might not normally have something in common with somebody else,” Bard said.

Big Time The Podcast episodes are available on Apple Podcasts.