I strolled into the Palestra around 4:30 for the supposed 6 PM tip-off between the Philly Stars and Team Melo Baltimore All-World whatever the fuck. Surprisingly, when going in search of my awaiting press credential, there wasn’t too much confusion… except for the local radio station frantically searching for Rahim Thompson, the event’s organizer and promoter and PR man and commissioner, who had promised them room to spin (or whatever the term is).
I walked into the mostly silent building, strolling along press row and looking to see where they would stick the bloggers. I noticed there was a pseudo impressive media turnout for the exhibition game: Colleen Dominguez, David Aldridge, Dei Lynam, whoa is that Kate Fagan?, John Gonzalez, Big Daddy Graham, and others. Consequently, the B-team folks (we’ll just say the B stands for blogger) were positioned in the auxiliary press box at the top of the stands. Good, I’ll be first to absorb whatever bits of soupy, damp air climb through the building’s 900-year-old windows. Approximate game-time temperature in the gym? Juvenile.
Hey, speaking of hip hop (and no, not the should-be-dead-mascot):
At around 5 PM, some of the Team Philly guys strolled onto the court for warmups. There was one part of me that really wanted to see LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Chris Paul playing in basketball's greatest venue, but there was another part that only really cared about seeing crazy Kyle Lowry, who I last saw play at the Palestra as a Villanova student when he jumped into a drum set in the second row. Him and Lou Williams were the first two on the court.
With everyone in the building sweaty and seated at 6 PM, there was only one thing missing: Team Melo.
Jeez, who thought that this game would have started on time? The hype machine had to go into overdrive before we could begin. A PR staffer told me that despite the given start time, the game wouldn’t tip until 6:30.
At 6:18, LeBron and Co. walked onto the court. You can’t quite hear it in the video, but there were boos. Lots of them.
The game got underway – as told – at 6:30 (and not a moment too soon- my boxers had already reached uncomfortable levels of ass-sticking). Surprisingly, it proved thoroughly enjoyable. I went in with full intentions of railing on a nonsensical game between NBA stars, but after just a few minutes, realized the contest had some semblance of organization.
Team Philly was clearly in better shape and got out to something like a 24-8 run (no one really cared about the score), using an array of fast-breaks and alley-oops to stick it to Melo’s team in the first quarter. You don’t have to think too long and hard before coming to the realization that most of the Philly guys grew up playing with and against each other (well, except Lou Williams).Things eventually evened out as the game progressed, though.
Perhaps the most entertaining part of the game was the Chosen League referee who performed some variant of the Truffle Shuffle for every major foul call, of which there were plenty. It was the perfect mix of ridiculous and hilarious, even though he would have gotten punched out if something like that was done in a game that actually meant something. As someone who usually celebrates the traditional aspects of sports, I turned into giddy Peter Griffin every time an and 1 call was coming. How do we not allow referees to display personality in other sports? Just imagine if Ed Hochuli patented a first down dance…
In the second half, DeSean Jackson strolled into the building with much fanfare. He was rocking his Washington Nationals cap (west-side), gold chain, and, for some reason, a towel around his shoulder. Roughly a dozen security guards surrounded him as he took his seat in the first row, where he would slap hands and exchange pleasantries with James and Williams.
D-Jac later left during the middle of play in the fourth quarter. No one seemed to care that his entourage walked along the baseline as fans broke out into an E-A-G-L-E-S chant, presumably to celebrate the 1-2 start…
As for the game, both Lowry and James dominated. The last official score sheet I saw had each with around 30 points (give or take) after three quarters.
It wasn’t until the fourth quarter – when Team Philly started to put the game away and LeBron began barking at the officials (really) – that things got out of hand. Tyreke Evans decided to show-off his crossover.
1:40 of this video:
That one brought people running onto the court in a jubilant fashion- by far my favorite street ball custom.
Here’s another video of Evans, taken just a few minutes later by my buddy Sean Don, who apparently had much better seats than I did:
After the game ended, media was supposed to have locker room access, just like NBA games, but that didn’t happened. Around 50 people gathered outside the Team Melo locker room, and all but a few (Dominguez and Aldridge) were turned away. Those denied access included folks from the Inquirer, Daily News, NY Post, and other major outlets. Without the NBA mandate for interviews, organizers and security could essentially do what they wanted. What ensued was a clusterfuck of media, fans, family members, posse, and World Wide Wes strolling aimlessly on the court, waiting for players to filter out. After about 20 minutes of hanging around, I left. Something tells me LeBron and Melo never came back out to the floor.
I had full expectations for the entire evening to unfold like the media mess at the end, but none of those fears really came to fruition. Yes, the building was hot and the game started late. Yes, there was little defense played and the score was meaningless. However, play remained entertaining for all four quarters, and there were no fan incidents stemming from lack of security or organization. All in all, an enjoyable (and sweaty) evening at the Palestra.