Posted Oct 7 2011 5:05PM
MIAMI (AP) -- For the first time since the NBA finals, the league's best will play in South Florida.
Thanks to the ongoing lockout, it may be a one-night-only appearance.
Miami Heat stars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh will headline a glitzy group Saturday night at the duly named "South Florida All-Star Classic," a game where nine players who were in last season's NBA All-Star game are committing to appear.
In all, the players expected to compete at Florida International in this exhibition collected more than $168 million in salary last season - and, unless things change, would earn $0 on NBA courts this year.
"We wanted to do something like this in Miami, so it's our way of connecting with our fans again," Wade said. "We want them to know that we want to play basketball this year."
Just under 5,000 fans are expected, some of whom paid $50 and $100 for seats that sold out in less than two hours earlier this week. Others plunked down $1,000 for courtside seats, and on the secondary resale markets, some tickets were going for more than that.
Proceeds will go to selected charities, including one created in the name of FIU coach Isiah Thomas' late mother Mary, and another to fund scholarships for students who attend FIU with hopes of becoming the first generation of college graduates from their families.
"I know I'm going to enjoy the evening," said Thomas, the Basketball Hall of Famer who helped make the game happen. "It should be something special to see, special for players, special for fans."
The top four finishers in the NBA's scoring race last season - Kevin Durant, James, Carmelo Anthony and Wade - are expected to play, as is Amare Stoudemire, who finished sixth in points-per-game a year ago. Some of the league's top point guards are also in, like Chris Paul, Rajon Rondo, Russell Westbrook and John Wall.
Memphis' Rudy Gay will likely use the game as a way to continue recovering from the injury that prematurely ended his 2010-11 season, and Caron Butler may get a taste of a game situation for the first time since a horrific knee injury kept him out of the Dallas Mavericks' run to the NBA title.
It's even a chance for two players who weren't in the league last year, Eddy Curry and Damon Jones, to perhaps try and revive their careers.
Of course, unless the lockout ends, none of them will play a real game again anytime soon. The NBA has already canceled the preseason slate of games, and it's possible that regular-season games could be wiped out if no deal is struck by early next week.
"I miss basketball," Bosh wrote on Twitter.
For at least one night, it'll be back in Miami.
And like they were for the first seven years of their NBA careers, Wade and James will be rivals, each leading a team. James' team is expected to include Bosh, Westbrook, Durant, Gay, Jones, Rondo, Philadelphia's Lou Williams, Atlanta's Jamal Crawford and Houston's Jonny Flynn. On Team Wade will be Heat teammate Mario Chalmers, Golden State's Dorell Wright, Butler, Stoudemire, Anthony, Paul, Curry, Wall and Portland's Wesley Matthews.