By Julian Dorey
When Halloween rolls around this year, plenty of sports fans around the country will most likely feel a bit of emptiness, as the NBA will most likely not be underway.
Because of a familiar set of circumstances—a lockout—much like the one the NFL had earlier this year, only worse. But while the league may not go on for a lengthy period of time, the game will.
Earlier this summer, as the heated battle between the NBA owners and players began and a lockout was put into place, NBA All-Star Kevin Durant started a trend that has brought an exciting, sentimental trip down memory lane to the game of basketball. Durant began to travel to legendary basketball courts in major cities around the country to play some hard-nosed, high-steaks, pick-up streetball.
After making headlines with a dazzling 66-point performance in front of a large crowd at Harlem’s Rucker Park, Durant decided to join the Goodman Basketball league, a prestigious streetball league in Washington D.C. near his hometown.
Other prominent players around the NBA joined in on the fun, like New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony, who created “Team Melo” in his hometown of Baltimore, Md. At the end of August, Anthony and Durant organized a game between Team Melo and the Goodman League. The game was held in a pick-up style venue at Morgan State University in Baltimore and featured NBA players like Chris Paul, LeBron James, John Wall, Josh Selby and DeMarcus Cousins. Thousands of fans, realizing that this could be their only shot to watch these stars play for a long time, packed into the arena, putting it above maximum capacity.
Shortly after the Melo-Goodman game, Philadelphia native Hakim Warrick of the Phoenix Suns reached out to his old college pal, Anthony, to discuss the possibility of a game between Team Melo and a group of Philadelphia-native basketball players—in Philadelphia. The idea was born and the game has now been set for 6 p.m. on Sept. 25. And there’s one caveat: It will be held in the “Cathedral of College Basketball,” The Palestra.
Since its inception in 1927, the Palestra has been a Philadelphia tradition, and has long been the main venue of the famed “Big 5” Philadelphia college basketball teams.
Most importantly, it’s one of the birthplaces of basketball.
On September 25, Team Melo will make the trip from Baltimore to the almost 9,000 seat legendary arena to take on Team Philly. The roster will be loaded with NBA players including Anthony, James, Paul, Durant, Selby, George Hill, Donte Green and Eric Bledsoe.
On the home court, Team Philly will also feature its own collection of NBA talent with Warrick, Lou Williams, Kyle Lowry, Tyreke Evans, John Salmons, Markief and Marcus Morris, Jason Thompson, and a couple “big surprises” that won’t be revealed until game day, Warrick said.
Every player on the Philadelphia roster is from Philadelphia, except Lou Williams, who plays for the Philadelphia 76ers and is considered “an adopted son.” So when Philadelphians hear Warrick mentioning some “big surprises,” they can’t help but excitedly consider the possibility of Philadelphia natives, Kobe Bryant and Jameer Nelson, making heroic appearances in the Palestra on the 25.
As the lockout draws nearer to its 100th day with no progress between the two unions, NBA fans are beginning to accept the fact that this upcoming NBA season simply might not happen.
But, for at least one day, the traditional NBA fan will have the opportunity to forget about the nasty lockout that’s threatening the very nature of basketball, by making the pilgrimage to one of the most esteemed venues in sports to watch some of the greatest players on the planet play some good, old-fashioned ball without coaches or commentators.
Now that’s something you can’t see on ESPN.