With the lockout lingering as a hopeless cause, the league has been in desperate need of a diversion. On Wednesday night, they got just that, with some of the NBA’s premier talent assembling in Baltimore to play a summer league exhibition game at Morgan State University’s Hill Field House, which seats about 4200.
Organized primarily by Knicks’ star Carmelo Anthony, the game was concocted to raise money for charity and help energize Baltimore in the wake of Hurricane Irene’s recent visit. Not only did it feature Anthony, a B-More native, but also fellow NBA stars LeBron James, Chris Paul, Gary Neal and Eric Bledsoe suiting up for the Melo League All-Stars, while Jeff Green, DeMarcus Cousins, Ty Lawson and Brandon Jennings were a part of the Kevin Durant-led Gooden League All-Stars, based out of Washington DC.
Despite being hyped almost exclusively by word of mouth, it soon became clear to organizers that the planned venue, 1,000-seat St. Francis High, would be an insufficient location. Thus the game moved to Morgan State, where ticket prices are reported to have ranged between $40 and $100.
The Melo League All-Stars took the game 149-141, led by LeBron with 38 and Carmelo with 27, aided by some slippery dribbling from the always elusive Chris Paul, and a couple of shockingly authoritative throw-downs from the diminutive Eric Bledsoe. Bledsoe is listed at only 6’1”, and must have surprised some folks with his leaps.
However, despite the Melo League victory, it appears that Kevin Durant, who we all know has been on an unspeakable tear through the summer leagues over the last few weeks, may have been the game’s real star. Spidering his lanky frame through the Melo League’s shaky defence, crossing and rising for pull-up threes, lifting off for deceptively powerful slams against all comers, and generally conducting a scoring seminar, KD worked his way to a massive 59 point performance, keeping his slightly more humble squad within a couple of baskets right through to the final buzzer.
The game will undoubtedly be one of those summer league match-ups that are discussed for months, and eventually years, with each retelling getting grander.
And while Wednesday’s game won’t count towards the NBA legacy of any of its stars, it means a lot at this moment. You can’t help but feel buoyed by the knowledge that somewhere beneath the uncooperative negotiations at the bargaining tables, these players, some of the very best on the planet, want nothing more than to play basketball. Let’s hope they’re able to do it again soon, for their sake and for ours.