The Real NBA All-Star Game

The players nailed it. These charity games are about the fan. The prices, venues and quality of play makes these pickup games as close to NBA action as you can see over the lockout. After attending The Battle of I-95 a few weekends ago, I’m now addicted. Here are some reasons why you should make it an obligation to attend one yourself.

It’s essentially an ALL-STAR GAME at a much cheaper price
Everything these days is about the almighty dollar. That makes these once-in-a-lifetime games one of the biggest bargains you can find. The average price on a ticket to the 2011 NBA All-Star Game was about $2,130. Seats at Chris Paul‘s game in North Carolina this past Sunday were $40 ($100 for courtside). Not only are the prices better, but the gameplay has the same exact blueprint as the NBA All-Star Game.

The NBA has always been my favorite All-Star game in sports. For the first three quarters, the players put on a show for the audience, tossing up alley-oops to long-time friends and lobbing jokes at one another with friendly trash talk. For the most part, the players are there to have a good time. However, when it gets down to crunch time, competitive nature really leaks out. These charity games are no different. In a tight game at the Battle of I-95, Kyle Lowry, surrounded by three defenders, needed a tough and-1 to put his team up before Tyreke Evans and his ridiculous handles could cap off the night by embarrassing Gary Forbes not once, but twice.

Every February, we look forward to the game’s best convening for a competition like no other. Yet tomorrow, of the 21 players planning on participating in “The South Florida All-Star Classic” at FIU, nine were All-Stars this past season: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire, Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Rajon Rondo. Should you drop $2,000 to see the All-Star Game in Orlando or $100 to sit courtside in Miami this weekend? Hmmm… (If you can’t do either, local residents can check the game out on CBS sister station My TV 33. Otherwise, it will be streaming on

It could be a sick crossover or a killer swat that gets the crowd hyped, but most of the time it’s the art of the dunk. And there are plenty. To the fan’s advantage, there is a lot less defense, which can sometimes lead to back-to back-to-back alley-oops.

Have you ever seen a behind-the-back dunk done during a game before? Highly doubtful. Along with his off-the-wall windmill, John Wall provided us with two of the top highlights of the offseason at the CP3 Foundation game this past Sunday. Without true coaching schemes, the court becomes a playground for the players and their creativity is limitless.

It was at least 80 degrees inside of The Palestra for the Battle of I-95. Everybody in the crowd was sweating bullets (one could only imagine how hot it was running up and down the court), but nobody seemed to care; The place was stuffed with authentic basketball fans. That meant no businessmen dressed in suits, sipping lattes in the best courtside seats, and no little children screaming for free t-shirts being shot into the stands. The only people admitted – at least it seemed that way – were the truest, genuine lovers of the sport.

Naturally, each time LeBron touched the rock, he was booed like it was the NBA Finals. Without a favorite team to root for, everyone not named LeBron gets a chance to feel some love from the crowd.

Watching basketball on TV is fine, but to true basketball fans, there’s nothing like being at a game. These charity events are being played at smaller venues, so if you’re stuck in the last row, you’re still right on top of the action. The worst seats in most college arenas are practically courtside compared to sitting in the upper deck of NBA stadiums, where players can sometimes be mistaken as ants scurrying around with a basketball. Even with music bumping, you can hear shoes squeaking, open players calling for the ball, and the chatter you always see happening on TV, but can never hear.

Since they try to cram as many fans as possible into these tiny gymnasiums, the intensity is off the charts. Although hot and sweaty, everybody is in good spirits and amped to see the show. Once again, the location will save you some cash: Instead of having to spend over $5 on a glorified souvenir cup of soda, you can purchase a $3 bottle of water with the cap still on it. What a concept!

It’s as close to NBA BASKETBALL as you’ll see for a while
With negotiations now lingering into October, regular season games are in jeopardy. For those of you who don’t watch football, baseball or hockey, it will be an especially long winter. Sure you can tune in to some NCAA games, but the charity games are the perfect way to quench your basketball thirst. If you’re already going through NBA withdrawals like me, you better tune in tomorrow night.

Who: TEAM LEBRON (LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Jamal Crawford, Kevin Durant, Jonny Flynn, Rudy Gay, Damon Jones, Rajon Rondo, Russell Westbrook, Lou Williams)
TEAM WADE (Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Caron Butler, Mario Chalmers, Eddy Curry, Wesley Matthews, Chris Paul, Amar’e Stoudemire, John Wall, Dorell Wright)
When: October 8th, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Florida International University

Who do you think will win tomorrow?

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