So maybe there was a WNBA logo at midcourt. And maybe the crowd of just over 5,000 was about one-fourth of what you’d get on a good night at Staples Center or Madison Square Garden. And maybe the only certified All-Star on either roster was sitting on the bench in street clothes, cradling his 2-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son in his arms instead of a basketball.
But none of those images could dim the fantasy that, for now at least, the NBA was back in Seattle.
This past Saturday afternoon, KeyArena played host to the H206 Charity Basketball Classic benefitting the A Plus Youth Program, showcasing nearly 20 players with NBA credentials on the court that was once home to Shawn Kemp, Gary Payton, Ray Allen and the Seattle Supersonics. It was the “Seattle” team versus the “League” team, a collection of guys from my city versus their friends and teammates from around the NBA.
Brandon Roy was the headliner, but having just come off a season where he missed 35 games due to knee injuries, he decided at the last minute to stay on the sidelines. The hometown hero – a Garfield High School and University of Washington alumnus – was still the unofficial ambassador of the day, however, addressing the crowd pre-game and attracting the largest contingent of media post-game.
Even without B-Roy suited up, the Seattle team was loaded with Jamal Crawford, Aaron Brooks, Spencer Hawes, Will Conroy, Terrence Williams, Isaiah Thomas, Martell Webster and Michael Dickerson. For the League team, it was Michael Beasley, Klay Thompson, Dorell Wright, Nolan Smith, Kyle Singler, Pooh Jeter, Troy Bell, Jeremy Tyler and NYC streetball standout Corey “Homicide” Williams. The uniforms had the familiar green, yellow and white color scheme as the Sonics.
Terrence Williams, the ’09 Lottery pick who played at Rainier Beach High School in Seattle, took MVP honors with 25 points for the home team, who won 140-122. T-Will got the crowd going with some breakaway dunks and alley-oop finishesâ€”one of the few guys who did make highlights above the rim. (We’re more shooters out here than dunkers, not to mention three-time NBA Slam Dunk contest winner and Seattle native Nate Robinson was nowhere to be seen.)
The best sequence came in the fourth quarter: Isaiah Thomas, former UW star and current Sacramento Kings rookie, hit T-Will with a no-look alley-oop. While the crowd was still processing that play, 5-11 Pooh Jeter went baseline, flicked the ball between the legs of 7-footer Spencer Hawes, and flipped in a reverse layup in traffic. Nolan Smith drew the biggest “ooh” with a tomahawk dunk in transition that he threw down with more power than anyone knew he had at Duke.
When the game was over, the players stayed on the court to sign autographs while Hawes (27 pts) took the microphone and started a “Come home, Sonics!” chant.
“I feel like the town needed something like this â€” a game being played in KeyArena by men,” Terrence Williams said afterward. “I think the city was fiending for NBA basketball. You could tell: They love the Sonics and they love basketball.”