T.O., Melyssa Ford and Andray Blatche
My sister is getting married this weekend, and I'm taking more vacation days. Trust me, I've seen the traffic numbers; no one needs me writing about the Nats right now.
Before I go, two final posts about the amazing Big Tigger charity basketball game on Saturday. In a few minutes, we'll have moving pictures. This is the typographic version. Sorry there are no photos; my camera broke.
So this game gathered a lot of celebrities, threw them in funny uniforms and plopped them on a sweltering hot UDC basketball court in front of several hundred sweating fans who were often more interested in the free Powerade than a one-on-one confrontation between DJ Flexx and Fred Smoot. And yet despite the odd circumstances, everyone behaved pretty much the way you'd expect. Characters were distilled into their essence on the basketball court.
Terrell Owens, for example, demanded your attention at every moment. Dunking in layup lines, jacking three-pointers, and, most amazingly, screaming at his teammates in the huddle during timeouts. I mean, you've seen him screaming at Jeff Garcia or Tony Romo or Donovan McNabb? Well, he looked exactly the same screaming at Big Tigger when his team--the Wizards--fell behind by nine in the fourth quarter. "We will not lose!" he apparently yelled in the huddle, and he refused to check himself out of the game for virtually the entire second half. Guess it's not an act.
He also airballed three-pointers, forced bad shots, and missed an alley-oop dunk. But when the game was on the line, dude showed up.
Caron Butler, as previously noted, was the likeable entertainer, dancing at mid-court, wearing a top hat while he coached T.O. and friends, and commenting on his coaching skills. "I did a good job," he said after the game, particularly complimenting himself for designing some pick and rolls.
Roger Mason Jr., meantime, was more serious while coaching the rival Bullets, running out on the court several times to protest calls and working the refs up and down the court. I mean, working them, asking for some obscure stuff. "I have a career in [coaching], I don't know about Caron," Mason said after the game, and I think he's probably correct.
Tigger, I should note, went out of his way to continually promote the cause behind the game, which was HIV awareness, prevention and testing.
"Whether or not they believe it, there are young ladies out here....They're boning, they're not having sex, they're boning, at age 13," he said in the pre-game news conference, which was slightly different from most pre-basketball-game news conferences I've attended. "I don't understand what idiotic thought process that is, but it's happening." "Wrap it up," was something of the motto of the day. So I carry that message to you.
Kenyon Martin was, by a gazillion miles, the most talented player on the court. Aside from all the radio and DJ-types, whom I'd never heard of, here were the basic athletic lineups: Martin, T.O, Vernon Davis, Cowboys corner Anthony Henry, hoops vagabond David Vanterpool, Fred Smoot and Tigger played for Caron's Wizards. Shawne Merriman, Andray Blatche, Darnerien McCants, Cowboys safety Pat Watkins, and probably a few others played for Mason's Bullets.
Shawne Merriman, I should note, was probably the most reliable player for the Bullets, who led pretty much throughout. Yeah, he was playing on the same team with professional basketball player Andray Blatche. Yeah, I would have picked Merriman over Blatche if this had been gym class. Sorry. I don't know what you want me to tell you.
Vernon Davis was, well, thick. I know this, because he plowed into me at one point. That was fun. He could also certainly throw it down, as could Merriman and McCants, although T.O. might have been the best dunker in the house. I asked Vernon about T.O.; "T.O. got some skills," Davis said. "He a little more petite than I am. Nah, he's a good player."
Darnerian McCants was often in charge of checking T.O., with Merriman often matched up against Davis. Those were the glamor matchups, anyhow. At one point, Vernon froze Merriman with a silly cross-over for a layup; Davis waved his arms wildly in celebration while Merriman took off his headband and chucked it in frustration.
Fred Smoot was, sadly, a non-factor for most of the game, but he was a very noisy non-factor.. He also was one of only two players wearing an undershirt. I interviewed him, but didn't understand most of our conversation. "Come on, man, I've got a 37-inch vertical, you think I can't dunk?" he said, when I asked whether he could dunk, but I'm still not sure I believe him. He also said T.O. was a "good guy," adding: "I run my mouth too, so we understand each other."
WPGC's Shack NdPack was the in-game announcer, and aside from occasionally calling Kenyon Martin "Keyshawn," he did a fine job. Maybe that's his nickname, dunno. "How 'bout that Barack Obama!" Shack shouted out at one point, to applause.
And Andray Blatche? Well, he turned into the game's most important player. For most of the fourth quarter, Blatche's Bullets were comfortably ahead, and Kenyon Martin was parked on the bench. But even without Martin, the Wiz clawed back, and finally tied it with a minute left. They got the ball back, went to T.O., he drove and was fouled with 30 seconds left, and he made both. Martin then threw his uniform on (backwards) and checked back in the game for the first time in ages.
So here's the scene. Thirty seconds left. T.O. and K-Mart are ahead, 74-72. The ball's in Andray Blatche's hands. He's been a turnover machine all day, and also missed a dunk spectacularly, but he did those 'Dre things that captivate Wiz fans, draining threes, going way up in the air, driving like a guard. Now Blatche makes his move on Kenyon Martin, and Martin swats the ball out of bounds with 5 seconds left. Blatche thinks he's fouled. No call. No respect.
The ball gets inbounded to Blatche, and he chucks up a three and is fouled. Chaos ensues. Three seconds left. Blatche needs to make three to win, two to tie, and Martin's all in his face, chattering, telling him about the pressure. The coaches keep coming out on the floor. Blatche backs off, then comes to the line.
The first shot clanks. The second shot clanks. Blatche walks away in horror. Terrell Owens and Kenyon Martin celebrate. Caron Butler strides around, grinning, with both hands wrapped around his neck. Blatche's celebrity coaches--Alesha Renee and Rocsi--stomp around the court in anger. Blatche misses the third on purpose, but the rebound goes to the Wiz, and Blatche's chance to be a hero is gone. A celebrity basketball hero, but still.
"YOU FAILED," Renee said to Blatche after the game. "We got robbed, we got robbed terribly, and I'm extremely disappointed."
"I choked," Blatche said. "I was trying to get the call, and when I got the call I was so hyped up that I choked."
"I don't feel bad," Butler said. "He was the opposition tonight."
So that's what happened.
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