I could use this space to chart game trends, discuss shot selection or break down the substitution patterns, but is that really why folks come to an all-star game? I can’t speak for the fans alongside me in Madison Square Garden yesterday afternoon, but I came out to see minimal D, mixtape dribbling and mad dunks. As such, a standard match report doesn’t befit the nature of the contest, so instead I offer you my real-time notes from before, during and after the game.
– We might be downtown, but Harlem is definitely in the house. Most of the courtside seats are occupied by Rucker Park regulars, and the entertainment team is composed largely of the crew you’ll see Uptown on game nights.
– A crowd gathers at the half shortly before the tip, and it’s clear that there’s a celebrity in the middle of it. As the gathering slowly disperses, I see that it’s Bronx native and current Bull Ben Gordon. Not long after, another familiar face emerges from a crowd, this time Harlemite and current Denver Nugget Julius Hodge.
– “Future” might be getting older, but he damn sure isn’t showing it. He gets things going with an early triple and keeps the tempo up by pushing the ball on every play.
– Ever the showman, Adrian “A-Butta” Walton shows no ill effects of his recent ankle injury, shaking free for a two and a three in quick succession.
– Not to be outdone, Kareem “Best Kept Secret” Reid hypes the fans up with one of his trademark spin moves, finishing with a tough and-one layup between two defenders.
– First-time all-star Anthony Pimple – known as “Africa” in the park – contributes his first highlight of the game with a big double-hander on the break that sees his forehead come perilously close to making friends with the iron.
– If there’s one thing you can say about “The Pharmacist”, it’s that he loves to put on a show in The World’s Most Famous Arena. On his first touch, he sets up with a series of fake crosses before throwing it through his defender’s legs, retrieving the ball and finding the open man for a layup.
– Pharm one-ups himself mere moments later with a sequence in which he fakes his man out with a “Hypnotizer” before breaking a hole in a double team with an indescribable crossover and throwing up a no-look lob to Africa, who does what he does best by smashing home an alley-oop, topping it off with an Orland Magic-era Penny Hardaway-style chin-up.
– The start of the second quarter features the talents of H3 teammates Antifreeze and A-Butta, both of whom do their best to cause permanent emotional damage to their defenders with dozens of dirty dribbling moves.
– A-Butta gets a chance to show off another aspect of his game in the second, catching an alley-oop pass off the backboard and stuffing in an emphatic two-hander.
– Africa again steps into the limelight with a dunk contest-worthy windmill on the break, prompting the first “Af-ri-ca, kum-ba-ye” chant of the game.
– “Special EFX” – the man I’d tipped for the all-star MVP award pre-game – justifies my prediction with back-to-back alley-oop dunks that would have looked unrealistic in a videogame. On the first, he somehow catches the ball in front of his face and finds time to cock it back behind his neck before throwing it down. On the second, he retrieves an errant pass from about two feet wide of the backboard, dunking across his body with the left hand.
– Two minutes later, it’s the return of the Special EFX show as he treats the arena to an encore of his first dunk, this time exaggerating the motion and slamming it even harder. Given the damage my ears are taking right now, I’d be surprised if they can’t hear us in Staten Island.
– Africa rounds out the first half with a stunning three-sixty, finishing from so high above the rim that you wonder whether he could have spun again before the completion.
– The Pharmacist hits the ground running in the third quarter, faking Dezert Heat’s “White Chocolate” every which way before throwing a gorgeous no-look bounce pass to a cutting Antifreeze.
– White Chocolate comes right back on the next play, pulling off a variation of the “Backbreaker” and sticking the pull-up three.
– Special EFX twists in the air to complete yet another alley-oop dunk, and Africa responds with a vicious put-back at the other end.
– Pharmacist provides the play of the game when he draws White Chocolate close and, in a repeat of what he did to Hot Sauce on the very same court two summers ago, pulls his jersey clean off his back while retaining possession of the ball. To put salt in the wound, he casually walks over and hands the shirt to his coach, then stands on the officials’ table to bask in the cheers of the fans. A bare-chested White Chocolate waves the “no-no” finger as if to cancel the play, but it doesn’t dampen the celebrations one bit.
– Ex-NBAer Joe Forte makes his presence felt with a couple of threes, but Africa reminds him that the game belongs to the dunkers, following a reverse alley-oop with another off a forty-foot pass. A third shortly thereafter results in the game’s second chant of “Af-ri-ca, kum-ba-ye”, led by MC Hannibal.
– Former AND1 baller Alimoe fights off a late run by the red team with a dime and a pull-up jumper, giving the white squad a 101-94 lead with a shade under two minutes remaining.
– Special EFX almost upstages Africa’s dunking display when he catches the ball with a clear path to the basket, but his Desmond Masonesque between-the-legs dunk attempt rims out shortly after the final buzzer, at which point the final score – not that it matters – stands at 107-96 in favour of the white team.
I was fortunate enough to catch a number of the players after the game, so keep your eyes peeled for six exclusive interviews to be posted right here at HoopsVibe.com, beginning tomorrow. Until then, take it easy.