As you may have heard, I was asked to participate in the media/celebrity basketball game that was the main event at the Jordan Brand launch of Chris Paul's new shoe, the CP3.VI. SB Nation sent a camera crew to document the whole thing, so you can look forward to a much more extensive behind-the-scenes and on-the-court video piece in the near future. But of course I have to write something about it as well.
First of all, let me just say that being a celebrity is pretty cool. Not that I am a celebrity, but when you are doing the same thing as other celebrities, people tend to get confused and think that maybe, perhaps you're one too. So the Jordan Brand and PR reps took great care of me, like I was a celebrity. I was in the green room with the other celebrities, with the good food and everything (unfortunately I hate to eat before I play, so I didn't really get to take advantage of the spread, but I could have). They introduced me as if I were a celebrity (though the screams from the crowd of mostly students were decidedly louder for the likes of The Game and Common than they were for me). Some in the crowd got so disoriented by the entire experience that they asked me for my autograph afterwards. Poor kids -- they're going to look at that in a few years and say "Who?" Maybe just a few days.
And the swag. Oh my goodness, the swag.
You can see in the photo above my game worn CP3.VIs in one of the new Nitro colorways that were just released. Those are clearly the atomic green, and they're pretty sweet. Before we go on, there's something you need to know about me. I love basketball shoes. I've probably bought close to 50 pairs in my adult life. Basketball shoes are to me what shoes are to women. And I'm old enough to remember when there weren't any basketball shoes -- or rather, when you called any rubber soled shoe a "tennis shoe" and you had one pair for everything. And if you actually played basketball, the shoes you owned were Chucks. Nike didn't even exist as a brand until I was 15, so shoes started becoming a big deal just as I was going through high school (and obviously they're a much bigger deal now).
But although I love new kicks and I've bought plenty of them, I've never been able to bring myself to pay full price. I get my shoes a season late or so, on sale at Marshall's or Ross or wherever I find them. And because I'm such a cheap skate, I don't have much brand loyalty -- if I find a pair I like in my size at a steep discount, then I buy them. In my closet before CP3 Day I had one pair of Nikes, one pair of Reeboks, two pair of Adidas and one pair of Converse. I've literally never owned a pair of Jordans because they are never at a price point I'm willing to pay -- like I said, I'm cheap.
So imagine my joy at getting not only my Atomic Green CP3.VI Jordans, but also a pair of Air Jordan Retro 9 "Crawfish" -- OMFSM! That's in addition to my uniform (with name on the back!), a pair of Jordan warm ups and a duffle bag to carry it all. Swag rocks. Celebrities have it made. Too bad I just bought a pair or John Wall Reeboks last month -- those aren't going to get much burn now.
I was on the green team (named for our shoes, though our unis were black). Game was the team captain and among my teammates were NFL legend (and fellow Long Beach resident) Willie McGinest and actor Anthony Anderson. There were 12 players on the roster, and Game was not interested in being replaced, so he played the whole way. Among the others on our team were a woman (Karen Civil) and a 12 year old (Skyler Grey), so not everyone was going to get the same amount of playing time, but although I was by far the oldest and whitest guy on either team, I was determined to get some run.
My goal was to do something positive on the court -- to have something I could point to and say "I did that, that was pretty good." Unfortunately, it didn't start off well -- my first touch I had the ball stolen from behind. A few minutes later though I had a chance to redeem myself. I was the only defender back on a 2-on-1 break and as the ballhandler tried to go past me, I picked him clean. I headed back the other direction and hit Game for a three pointer.
At halftime I was pretty content. We were ahead on the scoreboard, I had my highlight, I'd embarrassed someone else and not myself, I even got a courtside halftime interview for some reason (Clipper Darrell and Affion Crockett were the emcees for the event). I considered just taking the second half off and not spoiling it. But then Chris Paul, who we were told was not going to play, laced them up for the white team in the second half. I couldn't pass up the chance to be on the same court with him, so I checked in with about four minutes left in the game.
I didn't get to play directly against CP3 much. Once when my man set a screen for him, I showed on the pick and roll -- and he easily split the trap and left me grasping at smoke. You can catch a glimpse of me getting left behind at about the 19 second mark of this video.
I'm the old, bald, white guy.
CP3, playing with Jalen Rose the entire second half, led the white team back into the lead. But Game and slamballer Ice Latimore kept us close. With less than 10 seconds left, we got the ball back down two and called time out. On the inbounds play, like a good point guard I went back to the backcourt as an outlet for the inbound passer, and when no one else was open I received the pass. My first instinct was to get the ball back to Latimore, but he was covered, so I quickly dribbled into the front court. As a defender tried to close me out I beat him off the dribble and found myself open at the three point line. I saw no better options and was about to take the potential game winning shot, when at the last second Game broke free on a baseline cut -- I hit him in stride and he made the layup to tie the game and force overtime.
We went back to our starters for the OT, which CP3 took over and won for white. But I now had an even better highlight than my first half steal -- I had a slick assist to force OT.
It's rare that one gets the chance to experience something so dreamlike. As my 50th birthday approaches, it never occurred to me that I'd be playing basketball in front of screaming fans, on the same court as Chris Paul and Jalen Rose, and actually having an impact on the outcome. All I can say is, if they are having another game as part of the launch of the CP3.VII, I'm available.