Foot Locker All-Star Balloting Winner gets chance to take on a champ
Jeff vs. The Jet
Jeff Hisaoka knew he was going to play basketball on the biggest stage of his life. And thanks to Reebok, he was dressed for the occasion. Standing just outside Center Court at NBA Jam Session in Denver on Thursday, Jeff a donned new 2005 All-Star shooting shirt, some All-Star shorts and some snazzy new Reeboks.
You see, Jeff was the lucky winner of the Foot Locker / Reebok All-Star Balloting Three-Point Shootout Sweepstakes, which allows him to get treated like a VIP on All-Star Weekend. Not only did Jeff and dad get some new duds and kicks, but they get to attend All-Star Saturday Night and the 54th All-Star Game on Sunday.
But first and foremost, Jeff and his dad had to face down TNT analyst and former Rockets guard Kenny Smith in a three-point shootout at Center Court. Just before the contest, Jeff, a college student, admitted to a little anxiety.
"Yeah, I'm a little nervous," Jeff said.
Who wouldn't be? After all, Jeff, a Lakers fan, would be competing against a former Three-Point Shootout competitor. But Jeff said he was ready.
"When I do play basketball, I take three-pointers," Jeff said. "But I've never done an NBA three-point shot. I have a weakness with the side shot."
Uh-oh. Two of the three racks in the competition were from the baseline.
Jeff and his dad, who attended the 1967 NBA All-Star Game at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, were soon ushered to the court where they watched Jo Jo White win the Legends Three-Point competition. The Hisaokas then took to the court to warm up. Jeff immediately headed for three-point range, while Tadao started stroking 10-footers, one after the other.
Kenny Smith, in a Rockets shooting shirt, joined the warm up, his sidewinder shots ripping the net, one after the other. He then introduced himself to his challengers. Soon, the MC's voice boomed, "Kenny, any worries about the contest?"
"No, not at all," Smith said with a smile on his face.
And while the Legends shot just inside the NBA three-point line, Smith wanted Jeff to shoot from NBA range.
Jeff went first, starting in the place where he had the least confidence -- the baseline. The first shot clanked, but undaunted, Jeff launched his second shot. Swish. And the next: Swish. Two in a row, from the place he least expected. Jeff would go cold from the top of the key, but he would hit two from the other baseline for a total of four points.
Dad was next. Smiling, he pointed on his way to the left corner.
"Didn't the legends shoot from there?" Tadao asked. Smith obliged by moving the rack in to the 15-foot range. Tadao was cold for the first two racks, but hit two of his last four.
Then, it was Smith's turn. He made three of his first four, then his first two of the second rack to seal the deal. After, Smith was thrilled with his performance and surprised by Jeff's.
"I was surprised," Smith said. "I watched him warm up and he didn't hit one shot. Not one. So when he hit two in the first rack, I was definitely surprised."
As for Jeff, he said the nerves went away as soon as he hit his first shot.
"After I hit my first one, I said to myself, 'I got this,'" Jeff said.
That, and he was looking forward to the rest of the weekend.
"I want to thank Foot Locker for giving me the opportunity to go one-on-one with Kenny Smith," Jeff said, "and for giving me the chance to make the NBA." He paused, and smiled.