There hasn’t been an NBA game since the Mavericks finished off the Heat this summer, but Sunday afternoon, fans at the Frank Erwin Center were treated to an exciting game of basketball that could have rivaled any NBA game. The SBA All-Star game was played between a team of 10 of the nation’s top street basketball players and a local team of five players, including former Longhorn Dexter Pittman.
Eleven-time All-Star and former No. 1 overall pick Allen Iverson was originally slated to play in the contest but because of a scheduling conflict, Iverson did not participate in the exhibition.
In the world of street basketball alley-oops and no-look passes reign supreme, but defense and stamina are not lost among the players of the Street Basketball Association. The SBA, founded in 2001, is comprised of 13 teams from cities such as Boston, New York and Chicago, and showcases a style of play much different than most fans of basketball are accustomed to watching.
An emcee was on hand to call the play-by-play while interacting with the referees and fans as he paced from one end of the court to another. (Pittman was given the title “The Bully” by the emcee and was said to be in search of other player’s lunch money.) Music was played over the arena’s speakers for the entirety of the game, and fouls became irrelevant as players decided to “play on” rather than shoot from the charity stripe. Instead, any in-game disputes between players were settled right there on the court. If one player got the better of his counterpart on one possession, you could almost guarantee that the player who just got dunked on or embarrassed was coming right after the guy who did it the first chance he got.
For those that have seen any of the AND 1 Mixtape tour on ESPN in years past, this game followed a similar format. A team of skilled players travels from city to city, taking on a new team every game. The games are frenetic and the SBA’s best are no slouches on the court. Randy “White Chocolate” Gill, billed as the SBA’s best player right now, lit up the scoreboard with several three-pointers, floaters in the lane and stifling defense on the opposite end of the court. Everything else about the atmosphere may feel foreign at a streetball event, but one thing is for certain — every player will bring their best on any given day.
Even though this was a street basketball game, there are some nuances within the game that never go away. Enter “White Chocolate,” a lightning-quick point guard with a knack for hitting shots when they matter the most. He surged up the court countless times and hit one clutch shot after another as the game clock wore down. “White Chocolate” must have had over 30 points, but in the end, the All-Stars were victimized by a player dubbed “The Shooter” that had a pair of buzzer beaters, including the game-winning shot. The Austin team won 129-126 after regulation, but the emcee added a five minute overtime after some convincing from the crowd. It was apparent that every player wanted to win, but after the five minutes were up the two teams were tied at 149 points apiece.
With the lockout still in effect in the NBA, more players like Pittman are taking opportunities to play in games like the one held on Sunday. Not only does it keep players in shape, but some could argue that the disparity between the level of play of the NBA and other leagues is no longer a factor. Pittman made seven of his 12 shots, grabbed nine rebounds, had two steals and a block — all while playing against a legitimate seven-footer. Some NBA teams don’t even have a guy that’s seven feet tall. Granted it was an exhibition game, the SBA players were obviously well-conditioned and showed flashes of NBA-caliber play. These guys in the SBA aren’t millionaires with shoe deals or other endorsements; they simply go out there and play the game with passion, something that could continue to attract locked-out NBA players. By now, most people have heard about Kevin Durant’s 66 point barrage at Rucker Park in a game very similar to the one held at the Frank Erwin Center Sunday. The fact is that some guys were born to play basketball, and they will play whenever and wherever.