Fear & Loathing in Seattle: Jamal Crawford’s Pro-Am Helps a City Heal

08.29.14 5 years ago 2 Comments
When you walk into the Royal Brougham Pavilion at Seattle Pacific University in Queen Anne, it doesn’t feel like a college arena. It feels more like a high school gymnasium, and there’s an immediate air of intimacy here that’s rare given the fact that the upcoming game features so many professional basketball players.

It’s a little before 4 p.m., and Dime arrived in Seattle this Saturday in late July just in time for the final game of Week 4 of the Seattle Pro-Am, a match-up featuring Jamal Crawford and his DRG Wolverines versus Alvin Snow and the Stranger Cougars.

[RELATED: Dime Q & A with Jamal Crawford on the Seattle Pro-Am and more]

It’s hard to put your finger on exactly what it is, but really good basketball players, when they’re warming up, have a certain combination of tranquility and insouciance to their movement that belies a very high level of athleticism and overall ability.

After tip-off, it quickly becomes evident that this is a real basketball game. The pace and intensity is roughly 80-90 percent of what you would expect from a college or pro game, which is pretty amazing considering Crawford regularly (and effortlessly) drops 50 or more points here every weekend. He’s just that much better than everybody else.

Here are just a few random mind-boggling facts about Jamal Crawford: he is one of only three current players with more than three 50-point games. He’s the only player in NBA history to win the Sixth Man of the Year award twice. He is seventh among all active players in career three-pointers (1,689). And he is the all-time NBA leader in four-point plays.

But this game would be a different story. After a hot start and a second-half streak of three impossibly-deep three-pointers in a row, Crawford had gone cold, and by the end of the third quarter, his Wolverines were getting blown out of the gym thanks to a 22-2 run by the Cougars.

We were witnessing something rare. Crawford – who is quite possibly the nicest guy you will ever meet – was visibly frustrated and engaging in a little trash talk with the opposing team’s bench, which, though perfectly harmless, seemed a tiny bit out of character for him. This was partially due to the fact that Alvin Snow – a local Franklin High product who played at Eastern Washington University and professionally overseas for the past decade – had caught fire. During one sequence, Snow drained several deep three-pointers of his own and, to make matters worse, picked Crawford’s pocket on one possession and it followed it up with yet another impossibly deep three on the other end. It was an off game for Crawford (if you can call it that) who finished with only 38 points in the loss.

The point is that just about anything can happen in a setting like this, which is a big reason why the Pro-Am draws so many fans every weekend during the summer. This is the Pacific Northwest’s version of NYC’s EBC at Rucker Park, L.A.’s Drew League, or D.C.’s Goodman League. The games are loose but competitive, partially because you can’t underestimate the power of bragging rights.

“I love those moments,” Snow said about his Texas-style shootout with Crawford. “He can never take those back, and I can always ram them in his side whenever I feel the need.”

The Seattle Pro-Am is more than just a handful of glorified summer league pickup games. It’s a two-month long basketball tournament that just happens to periodically feature some of the NBA’s biggest stars.

Here’s a brief rundown of just a few of the names, past and present, who’ve participated in the event: Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, LaMarcus Aldridge, Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, John Wall, Tyreke Evans, Jeff Green, Isaiah Thomas, Tony Wroten Jr., and countless others.

Saturday’s games were part of regular tournament play, but Sunday was the Pro-Am’s annual All-Star Day exhibition, which would feature, among other events, a three-point shootout, an absolutely insane dunk contest between high-flying NBA rookie Zach LaVine and Team Flight Brothers alum Kevin Kemp (aka Golden Child), and an All-Star Game with surprise guests Wilson Chandler, Terrance Jones, Spencer Hawes, and more.

Part of what gives the tournament its signature flair is the inimitable voice of the Pro-Am, Vance Dawson, a Seattle native and local high school and college sports announcer who’s been calling games at the Pro-Am for the past three years. He’s more or less the Duke Tango of the event, except without all the running around on-court and screaming. Some of his best quotes from the weekend: “clean as a Safeway chicken,” “sunny outside, raining in here,” and so-and-so “gettin’ his Sidney Deane on.”

“A lot of times, I come up with it on the spot,” Dawson said about his announcing style. “I spend a lot of time in my car, [and] I’ll think of something. I try to see how I can translate it to a basketball game. You know, I took the Kevin Hart bit: Say it with ya chest! When would you say that? Well, after a hard dunk. [If you were here yesterday] then you probably heard the ‘down goes Frasier!’ It’s gotta be a hard dunk. Everything doesn’t apply. You gotta wait for the right thing. You still have your basic basketball calls that you do. You can’t put a flair on everything. But a lot of it I come up with on the spot.”

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