After some early-summer excitement, it has been clear for months that these star-studded exhibition games do not resemble real basketball at all. But there is no way to be cynical about NBA players coming together to raise money for charities.
So it is legitimately big news today that Chris Paul, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony have organized a four-city “homecoming tour” of games, all in early December, with the proceeds going to charity. The series will begin Dec. 1 in LeBron’s hometown of Akron, Ohio, and conclude Dec. 10 in East Rutherford, N.J., which will suffice as Anthony’s hometown for thematic purposes, per The Associated Press. In between, the four stars, plus Chris Bosh and a rotating cast, will play in New Orleans (Paul’s current NBA home) and Chicago (Wade’s hometown).
Even better: The stars will organize various charity events and fund-raisers on days surrounding the games, according to The AP:
Events begin Nov. 29 in New York with a court dedication and food drive, before the group moves to Akron for events the following day that include a Wheels for Education program — something James is extensively involved with in an effort to help keep kids from dropping out of high school — and a basketball clinic at the Boys & Girls Club bearing the two-time NBA MVP’s name.
Paul will host an education-themed event and a clinic in New Orleans on Dec. 2, in advance of the game there two nights later. Wade hosts two events for charity in Chicago on Dec. 6, and another clinic is planned for New York on Dec. 9.
Well done by all involved, assuming this star-studded tour actually happens, unlike the four-continent world tour that had been scheduled for this month but fizzled when the stars involved all simultaneously decided they wanted to spend more time with their families. That scenario would seem unlikely here, given the close ties between the organizers and host cities. A quick settlement to the NBA lockout could jeopardize at least the last couple of games because players could be in training camp by early next month if the league and the union shake hands on a deal in the next few days. Of course, that would involve the two sides actually deciding to pick up the phone and negotiate.
Wade is also promising that these four games will look something like real basketball:
“We want to get into work mode. When we get into the tour, we want to play. We want to be equipped to do that. We don’t want to just run up and down the court and jack up shots. We want to get into the things we need to do when it comes to strength, defense, all those things you usually do in training camp. So we’re getting into that mindset.”
I’ll believe it when I see it. Three NBA players — Rajon Rondo, Donté Greene and Drew Gooden — hosted charity games over the weekend, and by all accounts, the contests featured zero defense, lots of dunks and piles of hasty threes. DeMarcus Cousins lived his dream of playing guard during Greene’s game, which included a dance-off (video in the link above) between Sacramento rookies Jimmer Fredette and Isaiah Thomas. Kendrick Perkins ran the point in Rondo’s game, which featured this ridiculous “fast-break,” off-the-head alley-oop from Rondo to Rudy Gay.
Joakim Noah, who played in Gooden’s game, concluded, “You can’t say much about a game like this,” and Matt Steinmetz of CSNBayArea.com wrote that “calling it a game was a stretch.”
No matter: That game raised $10,000 for the Make-A-Wish-Foundation, and that’s the only thing that matters. These four games, given the stars in the mix, could raise much more. Good for all involved.
Tickets will go on sale this week, and the games will be streamed live via Google Plus, The AP reports.