NBA Lockout Watch, Day 62: Fans Pack Morgan State To See Exhibition
Several NBA stars gathered at Morgan State Univ. last night to play an exhibition game, and "the event -- promoted only through word-of-mouth -- didn't exactly go off without a hitch," according to Kevin Van Valkenburg of the Baltimore SUN. Knicks F Carmelo Anthony organized the game in his hometown, "played in front of a sellout crowd of about 4,500" at Morgan State's Hill Field House, and recruited Heat F LeBron James, Hornets G Chris Paul and Thunder F Kevin Durant, among others. The initial plan "was to hold it at St. Frances, which seats only 1,000, but once word got out, organizers said they knew that wasn't possible." The last-minute venue change "still had everyone scrambling." The gym "was packed to the point where fans were practically spilling onto the court." The game was supposed to tip off around 7:00pm ET, but "didn't get going until around 7:45," and with "no assigned seats and only a handful of police officers around to mediate arguments between grumpy patrons, the potential for chaos loomed throughout the game." When the game ended, "most of the crowd surrounding the court spilled onto the floor and quickly surrounded James, Durant, Paul and Anthony." Still, the "atmosphere, in the end, was mostly festive." Anthony figured it would be a "fun way to raise a little money for charity and stay sharp during the NBA lockout" (Baltimore SUN, 8/31).
PUTTING ON A SHOW: ESPN N.Y.'s Ian Begley noted when James and "his teammates of the Melo League finally walked onto the court, they were rushed by autograph seekers and people snapping pictures with personal cameras and cell phones." It set up "one of the strangest scenes of a very peculiar night: players taking warmup shots while dozens of fans walked through the lane and under the basket." Begley: "The game was every bit like an NBA All-Star Game" (ESPNNY.com, 8/30). In DC, Michael Lee notes last night's event was an "entertaining and hastily-planned game that hinged heavily on the availability of James and Paul." The fans, "some paying $100 for floor seats, were stuffed inside and witnessed some acrobatic dunks, dazzling dribbling displays, and an impressive duel between Durant and James." Asked how he convinced James to play, Anthony said, "There’s no money involved, we don’t take no money. We’re just good friends, and I told him, I said, ‘Look, man, you’ve got to come through'" (WASHINGTON POST, 8/31). The POST's Lee writes James and Durant "definitely got caught up" in the excitement of last night's game, "making those $40 tickets -- $100 for floor seats -- worth the price of admission." Anthony said, "This summer, summer basketball is back. LA, Chicago, New York, DC, Baltimore. It’s back and I think we did a great job of competing for the fans." Durant scored 59 points in last night's loss, but "continued to add to his burgeoning street ball reputation, after earlier scoring 66 points at Rucker Park." His desire to "play, wherever and whenever somebody wants to get a good run has raised his profile even more" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 8/31).