A great idea. A worthy cause. A lackluster effort.
Yes. It’s been said. Because it had to be said.
The Hoops 206 Charity Basketball Classic had the potential to be an AMAZING event. But as most people who were in attendance would probably agree, it was little more than okay.
I’ll be honest. I wasn’t expecting a huge to-do at Saturday’s get-together in Key Arena. I knew this event was only lightly promoted and, based on last-minute two-for-one ticket sales being offered, likely to be lightly attended.
Even with low expectations, however, “H206” failed to impress. Which hurts to say, but was painfully evident to those of us in the seats. While the game itself was a relative success, there was something left to be desired in nearly every other realm of the production.
Was this a step in the right direction towards getting an NBA team back? Absolutely.
Was this a fun distraction on a summer afternoon? Certainly.
But was H206 all it was cracked up to be? Hardly. And therein lies the problem.
So much more could have been done to make H206 the event it should have been. That didn’t occur. So what went wrong?
“This is a clusterf**k.”
From the moment I arrived in the building once housed by our beloved Sonics, I heard the word being bandied about: clusterf**k. We had walked into a top-notch sh*t show.
Between the media and the fans, everyone wanted to know what was going on. No one, seemingly, had any answers.
While a handful of kids shot baskets on the court, spectators floated around the venue wondering why the clock ticking down to game time kept going up rather than down (it happened more than once) and asking themselves where all the players happened to be.
“Ten minutes before we were supposed to tip-off,” revealed a source close to the situation, “we had four Seattle players in the building.”
To combat the lack of hometown bodies, more time was then added to the countdown clock on the arena’s jumbotron at least twice. Additionally, a contingency plan was conjured up in the event that too few Seattleites were to show up. Though nothing was set in stone, the conversation centered around “trading” former Washington State Cougar Klay Thompson from Team League to Team Seattle, a last-minute switch that might have sat well with some, but certainly not with others (Thompson is a native of Southern California). Ultimately, enough of the Emerald City All-Stars showed up to nullify any potential jersey-swapping.
Indeed, the pros didn’t take to the court for pregame warmups until 3:00 p.m., the time the game itself was supposed to begin. And even then, it was the “League” team that made its way onto the hardwood well before our local heroes.
(“Kyle Singler warmed up for an hour-and-a-half!” as one of my buddies would later put it. He was exaggerating. But only slightly.)
After Team League had enjoyed considerable opportunity to shoot around, Michael Dickerson emerged from the locker room and was the first Seattle hooper on the floor. For a solid five minutes, the 36-year-old former Vancouver Grizzly shot jumper after jumper. Only after the game’s elder statesman had worked up a sweat did his cohorts slowly trickle from the bowels of the stadium.
Still, as Spencer Hawes, Isaiah Thomas, Martell Webster and others filtered into the public consciousness, it was clear that the scene before us was closer to a rec softball game than a professional exhibition. The talent would be showing up on its own schedule. The crowd would have to wait.
“Where’s Brian Scalabrine?”
And then there was Brian Scalabrine, who simply failed to arrive. God only knows what happened to the Ginger Jordan. He was listed on the Seattle roster, yet nowhere to be found.
While others, such as Brandon Roy and Rodney Stuckey, had precautionary reasons for not playing, no one heard any such excuses from Scalabrine. In fact, according to one source, no one heard anything from the journeyman forward. He became that one kid we all have on our teams from time to time. The No-Show. Captain AWOL.
Scalabrine wasn’t particularly missed (I mean, come on, it’s Brian Scalabrine, the pride of Enumclaw), but his absence certainly had to put some egg on the face of the folks running the event. If his mysterious disappearance accomplished anything, it put a spotlight square on the lack of leadership that plagued H206.
One individual working in a high capacity at the event told me that no one really knew who was in charge. And from the fan’s perspective, that lack of direction was evident. It certainly seemed like no one had taken control of the ship, essentially allowing the inmates to run the asylum.
Players did what they wanted, under the guidance of no one. Staging was non-existent. Entertainment during breaks was nearly unscripted.
At least one hired talent had no idea he’d be working this event; he was simply pulled from his seat to help out midway through the program. Another entertainer was overheard asking what to do just seconds before he went front and center before the crowd.
Of course, these things happen during any production. But there was certainly a recurring pattern of disarray throughout the afternoon that loomed over the old Coliseum.
“Overall, it was pretty cool.”
With all that said, there’s no denying that H206 was, in a word, cool.
It put NBA players live and on display before our very eyes once again. It raised money for the A-Plus Youth Program. It got people talking about professional basketball in Seattle. All good things, especially for a fan base that still dearly misses the Sonics.
But it could have been so much more.
A number of people I talked to felt the organizers of the event failed to capitalize on a golden opportunity. They were given a chance to get the entire region interested in pro basketball once again. A chance to show the NBA that we could still fill an arena, even in the middle of summer. A chance to really enjoy the game played at its highest level (more or less, with necessary apologies to defense) in our hometown. Instead, said some, they treated it as a platform for clothing sales, neighborhood glad-handing, and the social status of being connected to these athletes.
Regardless of your view on the event, we can only hope that the 5,070 people who paid to watch the Hoops 206 Charity Basketball Classic were enough to convince someone — anyone — that doing this in the future would be a good idea. No matter how Seattle’s first foray back into the NBA went down, it’s worth attempting again.
And for fans of the game like you, me, and many others similar to us, this is a start. Seattle deserves to have the Sonics back. Saturday, we began the arduous process of achieving just that.