Owens Takes M.V.P. Honors, Game Comes Down To Final Shot


Former professional basketball player Master P shined during Team New Orleans' Celebrity Game victory.
Terrence Vaccaro/NBAE/Getty Images

NEW ORLEANS, February 15, 2008 -- You've heard the expression "Don't quit your day job," right?

As nearly two dozen celebrities gathered for the McDonald's NBA All-Star Celebrity Game from NBA All-Star Jam Session presented by adidas at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center on the north bank of the Mississippi River, there were plenty of highlights and a few not-as-high lights to go around.

In what can only be described as a geographical paradox, Team New Orleans knocked off The Hornets, 51-50, thanks to the superlative efforts of one of the few professional athletes in the game. Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Terrell Owens took home MVP honors thanks to a dramatic, fashionably-late arrival as well as some late-game heroics. He finished with 18 points. Of course, with so many actors, musicians and performers on the court at one time, this game had its fair share of drama.

The starting lineup for Team New Orleans featured hip hop stars Ne-Yo and Master P (a New Orleans native), "One Tree Hill's" James Lafferty, WNBA All-Star Ruth Riley and television news reporter A.J. Calloway. Starting for the Hornets were boxing champ Floyd Mayweather, NFL legend Deion Sanders, Rush Hour 3 star Chris Tucker, WNBA great Swin Cash and defending Celebrity Game MVP Tony Potts.

Prior to the start of the game, NBA legend and ESPN Analyst Bill Walton, serving as General Manager for the Hornets, shared his unique, yet risky, strategy.

"I'm telling them to shoot 3-pointers in transition -- that's what will win it or lose it for us, I'm sure," Walton said prior to the start of the game. "As far as who I want taking the final shot to decide the game, it doesn't matter, does it? I cannot even figure out which end of the court I'm supposed to stand on."

Meanwhile, Team New Orleans head coach and actress Gabrielle Union admitted she was hoping to play things safer.

"Our strategy is to get the ball to Master P," Union said. "Ruth Riley can play, too. But I'd say we're worried about everything. If this came to a singing and dancing competition, we'd have it made, but I don't think it will get to that."

Regardless, these entertainers sure know how to put on a good show. "Everybody Hates Chris" actor Terry Crews Dance kicked off an impromptu dance circle prior to player introductions and got the 2000-plus fans in the right mood. And during warm-ups. And then again after the third quarter. But nothing brought the house down like a special appearance and welcome from new Suns center Shaquille O'Neal, who will be making his debut with Phoenix next week.

Both teams wore uniforms from the new adidas NBA HomeCooked Collection. In honor of the host city, the N’awlins HomeCooked collection takes inspiration from Cajun food, Africana and mysticism. So with a little bit of New Orleans' cajun spice mixed in, this game had a distinct hip hop flavor. We saw two Grammy winners go head-to-head: Ne-Yo took home the award for Best Contemporary Album and Common, winner for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group. And keeping with the musical theme, 2006 "American Idol" winner Taylor Hicks also came out and gave it his best shot (Soul Patrol? More like SLOW Patrol!).

"I think this may be the first time I have ever shot a basketball in my life," Hicks said, modestly.

After several misses on both sides to open the game, Tucker got the Hornets on the scoreboard with a jumper from the right wing. It is Friday, after all. The two teams traded baskets for most of the first quarter as Master P and AJ Calloway showed their outside touch while Sanders, Mayweather and Lafferty hit from closer in. Lafferty showed that he has some real skill in finishing a fast break with nice up-and-under, then following that with a monster block on other end. Hornets forward Mayweather had five points in the first quarter to lead all scorers.

The Hornets started to open it up a bit, running on Team New Orleans in the second quarter. Chris Tucker hit the game's first three-pointer (in transition, mind you) and Tony Potts came up with a sneaky steal and counter-punched on the other end with a layup. Perhaps a move he learned from teammate Floyd Mayweather.

But with two minutes to go before halftime, New Orleans got a boost: All-Pro NFL star Terrell Owens emerged from a corner of the building to a thunderous ovation a la Willis Reed. He came in and hit a bunch of quick jumpers to stop the bleeding (T.O. does not pass, he receives). He finished with seven points in that short stretch to close the half and cut the lead to five at the half, 28-23.

Despite the shift in momentum, New Orleans G.M. Stephen A. Smith tried to pull off a blockbuster trade during halftime. But the deal that would net him Deion Sanders in exchange for Seth Gilliam was overruled by Sanders. Apparently, he has a no-trade clause. The other halftime highlight? The game's executive chef served braised duck and collard greens to the official scorers and members of the press.

"It is just great that the NBA is here and doing this for the city of New Orleans," Owens said. "This is just the beginning of what will be a fun weekend here."

Owens and Master P kept up the intensity for the first minute or two of the third quarter as New Orleans continued to chip away at the lead, but Chris Tucker's two three-pointers (one of which was a bank ... did he call it?) gave the home team the momentum once again. Deion Sanders then poured salt in an open wound by knocking down a pair of baskets right in front of Stephen A. Smith. Sanders also shut down Owens on the defensive end for much of the third quarter, reminiscent of a mid-1990s NFC Championship Game.

Then things got as intense as a basketball game full of celebrities could possibly get. As the clock ticked down in the fourth, the best athlete on the court, Terrell Owens, could no longer be contained. He rallied the visiting New Orleans squad with a flurry of points and his power dunk midway through the fourth quarter finally tied the score. The two teams traded field goals down the stretch until a timeout controversy led to a technical foul and tied the game up once again -- with only seconds remaining.

"This felt good tonight," Owens said. "I hadn't played in a long time because of football season and I obviously had an ankle injury, but that dunk was fun."

Then Master P hit two late free throws, Ruth Riley came up with a game-saving blocked shot and Team New Orleans completed its epic comeback, truly one for the history books.

Despite his vocal antics all game long, which included berating the officials and NBA.com staff, New Orleans G.M. Stephen A. Smith proved that the those who cannot play become coaches, those who cannot coach become journalists, but those who no longer want to be journalists become Celebrity Game General Managers. Perhaps he has found his true calling.

At the end of the day, the biggest and most beloved celebrity superstar in the house might not have even played in the game. Cheering from the sidelines, Ronald McDonald was everywhere. He gave out All-Star gear, led cheers and really got the fans into the game.

The rest of these guys were nothing but a bunch of clowns.