Trio of NBA D-Leaguers Set to Take Part in Inaugural NBA China Jam Live!
The first time they met, the preacher’s son and the slam dunk champ didn’t find a whole lot to like about one another.
The clergyman's son, Moses Ehambe – a guard on the NBA Development League’s Iowa Energy and the owner of the 2012 NBA D-League Sportsmanship Award – was of the single-minded sort. He’d been kicked around (and basically out of) Europe as a journeyman looking to crack into the NBA, so when he finally found himself a step away from his dream, in the NBA D-League, he wasn’t in the mood for messing around.
So when he found himself matched up with L.D. Williams -- winner of the NBA D-League’s last two Slam Dunk Contests and one of the league’s most athletic players – he found the Springfield Armor guard a little cocky. And as the two jostled for essentially the same spot on an NBA roster, a 30-minute shoving match ensued.
“Playing against him, I always thought he was a jerk,” Ehambe said.
“I don’t know what it was for us,” Williams said. “It was a bad turn of events. We had a long flight, I guess.”
But then they got to work together at an NBA Cares Event at NBA All-Star Weekend in February, and they sorted things out in roughly the length of an offensive possession. So when Ehambe found out he’d be working with Williams at another Cares event this weekend, he jumped at the chance.
“He’s just an amazing guy,” Ehambe said. “He’s got a great personality – a guy that makes you laugh."
This time, though, the event’s happening 8750 miles from Orlando, where the reconciliation initially took place.
On Saturday, Ehambe and Williams will join fellow NBA D-Leaguer T.J. Campbell (Canton Charge) – along with NBA players DeMar DeRozan and Brandon Jennings and Legends Gary Payton and Horace Grant – in Guangzhou, China for the first-ever NBA China Jam Live.
“It’s truly a blessing,” Williams said. “Never once in my wildest dreams did I imagine I’d be going to China with some of my colleagues on a tour like this.”
It’s not an unprecedented thing, bringing NBA D-Leaguers to China. In the 11 years the league’s existed, it’s sent a half-dozen players there for a variety of reasons – most recently a quintet of players in 2007, for the Stankovic Cup.
But there haven’t been many events like this.
When the event tips on Saturday, the trio of Top Prospects will join a flurry of Chinese Basketball Association Players and Chinese celebrities for the centerpiece of Jam Live – a Celebrity Game-style contest with the NBA players coaching. Meanwhile, Chinese celebs from the worlds of music and fashion will surround the game with concerts and, in the case of supermodel Qin Shu Pei, poses.
“It’s crazy – it’s amazing how much basketball impacts the world, the way it does,” Williams said. “There are only a couple of things that can unite the whole world, and basketball’s one. Basketball and soccer. It just brings everybody together.”
It’ll also bring Williams close to one of his idols. Growing up, he admired all the parts of Payton’s game, from his historically stifling defense to his legendarily caustic commentary. So, like many kids his age, he looked up to his idol by walking all over him.
“I still remember going to the mall and buying his shoes one year,” Williams said. “But the zipper got stuck and I couldn’t get it off my foot. They legit had to cut the shoe off my foot.”
On Saturday, Williams and Ehambe will both play alongside Payton (on DeRozan's team), with Campbell playing on the Jennings-Grant squad.
“It’s not gonna be all fun and games,” Williams said. “When we play we wanna win.”
It will, however, give Ehambe a chance to take a couple of his newly acquired Chinese phrases for a spin. He’s not teaching himself the language, per se, but after he and his wife decided to have their daughters learn Mandarin, he’s picked up a few things from their videos in the background.
Only the important stuff, though.
“I learned how to say ‘give me chocolate,’” he said with a laugh. “I learned how to say ‘how you doing,’ and I learned that ‘dad’ is ‘baba.’”
Ehambe’s also going to have a significantly shorter flight to Guangzhou than Williams – who took off from North Carolina on Tuesday – did. With Ehambe’s father-in-law getting married in Beijing next week, the family already had a trip to China planned before he got the invitation to the event.
So, when the league came calling with the invitation, all Ehambe had to do to before making the cross-China flight was clear it with the proper authorities.
“Well first I had to ask the boss,” he said. “I had to ask my wife.”
“They were super-excited,” he said. “At once because we still get to go to China, and I get to do what I love doing, which is play basketball.”