Alonzo Mourning All-Star Basketball Game ’05
Zo’s Summer Groove 2005 Recap
On Saturday the sixteenth of July, it was time again for the annual event that has become one of the biggest of the NBA’s off-season, the Zo’s Summer Groove All-Star basketball game. Every year since 1997, Alonzo and a few of his celebrity buddies have made the trip down to Miami to play a little pick-up in order to raise money for several needy South Florida charities, and this summer was no different.
Although several big names expected to attend (among them Antoine Walker, Amaré Stoudemire, Steve Francis, Quentin Richardson, Ben Gordon and Jamal Crawford) were nowhere to be seen, their replacements more than made up for this. As I enter the locker room an hour before the tip, I am met with an abundance of NBA talent, a collection of stars with more rings between them than Liberace. In one corner, Robert Horry chats with Cuttino Mobley; in another, Sam Cassell laces up his shoes; in a third, Tim Hardaway entertains a gaggle of television reporters. Dwyane Wade greets Drew Gooden as he crosses the floor, and Michael Redd calls out “I weigh 217 with my clothes off” loud enough that everyone within the lower level of the A.A. Arena can hear. You can’t take two steps without brushing shoulders with an All-Star, and this bodes well for the sort of game that will essentially be a string of highlights.
The contest kicked off with the style of play expected of a charity game, a mixture of fast-breaks, three-pointers and wide-open dunks with a liberal helping of straight-legged defence and clear-outs to facilitate this. Unusually, however, shots from a certain spot on the floor (designated by a graphic some thirty-five feet from the bucket) in the last two minutes of each quarter were worth five points and a cruise for one lucky member of the crowd. After a series of bricks (enough to “build a new arena” according to the announcer) and a handful of airballs, Tim Hardaway finally sank one, delighting the crowd, and in particular the woman who was awarded a week-long boat trip of her choice.
The top plays of the first half included a smooth, double-pump reverse by Drew Gooden, who also padded out the reel with some fancy dribbling you wouldn’t expect from a player listed at 6’10”. Also featured in the halftime montage was Fred Jones, who reminded us why he’s a former dunk contest winner with a vicious, one-handed alley-oop, and ‘Zo himself, who iced enough three-balls that I started to wonder if he had played the point in a previous life.
There was also entertainment of other kinds during the timeout breaks as a series of dance crews hit the floor, one consisting largely of kids, and another composed entirely of senior citizens. Whatever their ages, each squad came out with fast-paced, professional routines that kept people in their seats and focused on the court while the players took a break. In between these were various giveaways, with seemingly enough t-shirts thrown to the fans to clothe the better part of the Miami-Dade area.
At the half the crowd was treated to a brief performance by Fat Joe, a man I was fortunate enough to bump into before the game as he chatted with the public, signed autographs, and posed for so many photographs (including one with yours truly) that it was a surprise a retina didn’t catch fire, all the while smiling, laughing and generally breaking every celebrity stereotype going. Received warmly by the Miami crowd, his performance of Lean Back nearly caused the stands to collapse as fans imitated his famous rock-away, the move that allows even the least coordinated of dancers to get down without looking goofy.
There was also a video montage detailing the various goals of Alonzo Mourning Charities, with the obligatory segment in which cute kids explain how the money raised from such events goes to work in the community. If anything, this roused the crowd even more, reminding them that the cost of their ticket was building schools for underprivileged youths rather than putting T.V. screens in some businessman’s Bentley.
The third quarter saw more alley-oops, more no-look dimes, more threes and even less defence. The Celtics’ Delonte West was active on the break, hustling and throwing lobs, many of which led to thunderous dunks. Keyon Dooling also ran the floor, showing the inconsistent brilliance that has six or seven teams vying for his services this coming season. However, ‘Zo stole the show with moves not of the basketball variety, joining Sacramento’s Maurice Evans and roughly a dozen cheerleaders for an impromptu dance-off at centre court. Although Evans was understandably coy, Alonzo didn’t hesitate to get down, answering anyone who said that big guys can’t dance with some old-school popping and locking.
By the fourth quarter, the game had broken down entirely, and with three minutes left, mascots, dancers and various officials flooded the court and fired freebies into the crowd. Security guards made their way to the court, players to the locker room, and fans to the car park as Alonzo took the microphone to thank us once more for our attendance and support. The clock ticked down the last seconds as the man aptly dubbed “Good Mourning” gave his final wave, the buzzer and red lights shortly thereafter signaling the end of another ZSG All-Star game, and another year of cheer and charity organised by the big fella with the big heart.