Jim Sweeney went looking for a pickup basketball game, never realizing he was picking up much more.He started at Woodgate Park near Clearwater's Countryside High School, looking to stay in shape, longing to compete like he did as a Boston College standout and loving the chance to sustain his passion. He talked to guys. He learned about better games, better players, and eventually he found his way to weekend workouts at Frank T. Hurley Park in Pass-a-Grille.From there, he followed the competition to Frank Pierce, Bay Vista and Campbell Park recreation centers, gaining more than a reputation as a good local player.Now, some 30 years later, the 57-year-old Sweeney holds a role with the International Maxibasketball Masters Basketball Association, a spot in the association's 13th world championship at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista this week, and basketball moves he jokingly describes as "ice-glacier quick."What he holds most dear, however, are the relationships he has gained from his devotion to the game. From the hot asphalt courts of local lore to the hardwood floors across the ocean, Sweeney has never stopped adding members to his unofficial fraternity.At the UBS financial services office in St. Petersburg, they know Matt Kilgroe as the managing director, wealth management. Sweeney knows him as the 6-foot-6 former Eckerd College player. Sports bar owner Mark Ferguson, 57, is "Ferg," the guy with a knockdown shot and great hands. Tarpon Springs High students call Jerry Woodka, "Coach," while Sweeney calls him the best 50-plus player in the United States."My wife calls it the secret brotherhood," said Sweeney, who was inducted into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame this month. "I've made so many great friends over the years."The fraternity possesses no boundaries. Black, white, old, young — all are welcomed as long as they're not "knuckleheads." Sweeney talks of playing against guys back in the day and playing against their sons now.He also revels over playing in international tournaments and making more friends. He has hosted guys from around the nation and world at his Safety Harbor home.These days most of the local guys play at least three times a week, often at Eckerd College. Tritons coach Tom Ryan played at Eckerd, competed in those pickup games at Frank T. Hurley while still a student, and now often hosts the fraternity at the college."Guys come in the gym start ribbing each other right away," said Ryan, 50. "But it's not just jokes. It's a very competitive group of guys. If you don't win a game, you leave angry and come back next week ready to play."For Ferguson, whose 3-on-3 teams took the top division five different times at the old Hoop-It-Up Tampa street tournaments, basketball is more than a short car ride from his restaurant on Central Avenue."It takes your mind a million miles away from your work," said Ferguson, 57. "I feel blessed healthwise to still able to go out and play."To be clear, these guys don't play to stay in shape. They stay in shape so they can pursue this lifelong passion. Sweeney credits his wife for a healthy diet and on days he doesn't play, he makes it a point to walk at least 5 miles.Tampa Bay's band of basketball brothers will be on full display at the world championship tournament at Disney. Of the 200-plus teams from 36 nations, 10 are from the United States and five of those have players from the Tampa Bay area.And those guys are playing with a purpose."Forget about the exercise; we're going to win," said Sweeney, who will compete in the 55-plus division. "You can do a lot to talking if you're a world champion, and we want to be world champions."If you're competitive as a kid, you're going to be competitive as an older man." Contact Ernest Hooper at ehooper@ tampabay.com. Follow @hoop4you.