By Nicki Jhabvala, SI.com
PHILADELPHIA — NBA basketball returned for a night … at the famed Palestra.
With the league locked out and 43 preseason games already cut from the schedule, some of the game’s biggest names held their own offseason competition in a Philadelphia charity game dubbed the “Battle For I-95” on Sunday. Organized by Phoenix Sun and Philly native Hakim Warrick, the home team took on Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Chris Paul and the rest of the Melo All-Stars in front of a sold-out crowd on the University of Pennsylvania’s campus.
And the NBA’s stars shined bright.
The Philly crew tore up Team Melo’s defense, throwing up alley-oop after alley-oop to take a 66-58 lead at the half and overcoming LeBron James’ monstrous second half (LeBron in the fourth quarter — you read that right) to claim a 131-122 victory.
In case you missed the live stream on SI.com, here are some highlights from the Philly-Melo showcase:
• Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant, who has been the star of this summer’s pickup-league circuit, had been scheduled to attend but couldn’t because he was shooting his new film, Switch. SI.com’s Sam Amick spoke with Durant at length on Saturday and got the scoop on his new Hollywood gig.
• Allen Iverson, who was rumored to possibly play, also didn’t show up. The Answer wasn’t busy shooting a new movie though.
• Billy Hunter, executive director of the National Basketball Players’ Association, was reserved a seat on press row and members of the media were instructed to avoid asking him about the lockout. But none of that mattered: Hunter was a no-show.
• Philadelphia, like most other U.S. cities not named Miami, is no fan of LeBron, no matter if he puts on a show. The King entered the court to a roar of boos, and fans heckled him every time he touched the ball. He may have felt the heat at first — his first shot was a clanker and another hit the side of the backboard – but he quickly found his rhythm to tally a game-high 43 points and 23 rebounds.
• He also wore some of the tackiest things ever put on a human’s feet:
• William “Worldwide” Wesley, NBA power broker and consultant to Creative Artists Agency (which reps James, Anthony and Paul), was here, doing his usual power-broking things: hobnobbing with the stars, shaking hands with everyone and ignoring all reporters. Same for Maverick Carter, who sat on Team Melo’s bench and refused to leave LeBron’s side.
• DeSean Jackson, just hours removed from the Eagles’ 29-16 loss to the Giants, caused the biggest scene (and got the loudest ovation) at the Palestra when the wide receiver and his entourage were escorted out of the gym by 10 or so security guards.
• Carmelo would be ready if the preseason started today. He told Newsday‘s Alan Hahn that he’s lighter than he was when he came to New York, now weighing 230 pounds.
• Warrick will dunk on you and your mother.
• Tyreke Evans has absurd handles, and he had no problem showing Paul, Gary Neal, Josh Selby and the rest of Team Melo what he’s got. The Kings’ guard also grabbed 18 boards to along with his 18 points.
• Here’s the final box score from the night: