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.”
Other notes from the Key:
– T-Will got MVP and Hawes scored the most points, but Crawford was running the show. I didn’t see a box score, but I’m guessing he had at least a dozen assists, and just about every time he brought the ball up he gave us a little dribbling trick or threatened to break his defender’s ankles. You would think a guy in his 30s who is going into the offseason as a free agent wouldn’t risk his health playing in a game like this, but JC pretty much lives on the playgrounds in Seattle every summer. If there hadn’t been a charity game at KeyArena on Saturday, he would have been running 5-on-5 in the gym in front of no crowd anyway.
– I read a report that Beasley only scored 12 points, but that seems impossible to me. I could have sworn he had like 30, but maybe that’s what happens when you NEVER PASS TO ANYONE. I like Beasley, but he was like Blankman out there; all he saw was the ball, the rim, and shadows in front of him.
– Klay Thompson won the Three-Point Contest at halftime, knocking off Golden State teammate Dorell Wright in the finals. I’ve made jokes about certain guys â€” Mark Price, James Jones, etc. â€” being androids sent to Earth to shoot a basketball, but Klay might be the real deal. During one timeout there was some crowd-pleasing event happening on the court that I can’t remember, and I looked over to see Klay sitting on the bench staring a hole into the floor. He wasn’t reacting to anything going on around him. And then somebody flipped his “ON” switch when the timeout was over, and he came out and banged a few more threes. Don’t be surprised if this kid leads the NBA in three-point percentage someday.
– Michael Dickerson is 36 years old and hasn’t played in the League in eight years, yet he was in better shape than a lot of the active NBA guys on the court. Or at least he was willing to hustle more. Multiple times Dickerson beat everybody down the floor for easy layups.
– Four of the Seahawks were brought onto the court to play 2-Ball: Aaron Curry (LB) and Deon Butler (WR) versus Isaiah Stanback (WR) and Roy Lewis (S). Having spent plenty of time up-close with tall, lanky basketball players, most of them don’t physically surprise me anymore, unless it’s something crazy like Yao Ming‘s 60-pound head. But football players, I’m not as used to. Curry is a BEAST. It says on paper he’s 6-2, 255 pounds, but he’s as wide as a doorway. Dude is too jacked to shoot a basketball.
– Rodney Stuckey was listed on the roster but decided not to play. Brandon Jennings, Trevor Ariza, Jason Kapono, Avery Bradley, Brian Scalabrine, Marcus Banks and Marvin Williams were also included in the original advertising, but none of them were in the building.
– Shawn Kemp was there, though, hanging out behind the scenes and making a few appearances courtside. If you haven’t heard, The Reign Man’s oldest son, Shawn Kemp Jr., has signed to play with UW next season.
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