NBA Players Hurricane Relief Game Provides Hope, Inspiration

The 2005-06 Rockets Power Dancers were proud to participate in Sunday’s nationally televised NBA Players Hurricane Katrina Relief Charity All-Star Game hosted at Toyota Center.  Sitting (l-r) are Lexie, Holly, Kym, Alawan and Davique; standing (l-r) are Leandra, Aisha, Angelita, Amaris, Heather, Nicole and Dana. 

On Sunday, September 11, the NBA Players Hurricane Katrina Relief Charity All-Star Game was held at Toyota Center. With some of the more glamorous names in professional basketball on hand to participate, including Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, Kevin Garnett, and LeBron James, the game was not about who could score the most points or claim the flashiest dunks. It was about the people who weren’t playing.

“I’m gonna tell y’all something, the only reason I came down here was for the people of New Orleans,” Garnett said. “I came down here for no other reason. I think this weekend and the fact that we are here shows the impact that we have, not only as basketball players but as role models and from a hero standpoint.”

A sold-out crowd of 11,416 was treated to an entertaining pre-game warm-up display. James and Phoenix Suns forward Amare Stoudemire put on a dunk contest of their own with an array of windmills, reverses, and power dunks. The game picked up quickly with a myriad of offensive maneuvers from some of the greatest athletes to ever step on a basketball court. After one quarter, the West led the East 20-14, but the offensive flow would see the last of its low-scoring efforts. Stoudemire scored 11 points in the second quarter, and led all players in scoring at halftime with 15 points.

During timeouts, fans received free goodies such as T-shirts and team bags. However, the most tantalizing prizes were team-autographed basketballs that were given away to a lucky few by Houston’s own Clutch, the Rockets’ bear, and Rocketman.

During halftime, players and fans stayed in their seats to witness the improbable sight of “Rubber Boy,” the elastic, highly flexible boy who twisted and contorted his legs and arms in ways no one had ever thought possible. The high-energy stepping of the Rockets’ G-Force step team and acrobatic acts of the Rockets’ Launch Crew completed the halftime entertainment.

McGrady had an electric second half, scoring 15 of his game-high 21 points in the third and fourth quarters. Along with New Orleans Hornets guard J.R. Smith, who scored 10 points in the third quarter, the West was able to easily overcome a 43-45 halftime deficit as they outscored the East 39-28 in the third stanza. Smith captivated the crowd with a few dazzling aerial pursuits that resulted in an abundance of “oooh’s” and “aaah’s.” The highlight of the quarter came with less than a minute to play in the third on McGrady’s patented move of throwing the ball off the glass and laying it in uncontested. Rockets guard Mike James, who was also participating on behalf of the Rockets alongside McGrady and newly acquired Derek Anderson, capped off the third with a 3-pointer to put the West ahead 82-73 going into the final quarter.

At the quarter break, the legendary Harlem Globetrotters made a special appearance as kids gathered in a circle at midcourt to watch the Globetrotters perform their “Magic Circle” to “Sweet Georgia Brown.” There was also a sighting of hip-hop phenom Kanye West, who performed an impromptu rendition of his newest single. West also gave a heartfelt speech to the city of Houston and all the survivors of Hurricane Katrina.

They say they always save the best for last. McGrady scored 10 points in the fourth quarter, including a couple of shots that were a step inside the halfcourt mark, as the game was coming to a close. The West pulled away in the final quarter, outscoring the East 32-22 to win handily, 114-95. Even after the game, fans stayed around to cheer and show their appreciation towards their NBA heroes.

“I think a lot of people really don’t take notice of the type of people these guys are,” McGrady said when asked about the giving nature of NBA players and the league in general. “These are good-hearted and kind-hearted guys. They understand the importance of giving back and helping these people out.”

“It’s very important. I brought my 5-year-old daughter, she carried a couple of boxes and she said, ‘I want to go out and I want to help.’ That’s what it’s all about,” said Indiana Pacers forward Jermaine O’Neal, who finished the game with four points and four rebounds in 20 minutes. “If you can’t be effective in somebody else’s life, then who are you? No matter if you’re an athlete, garbage man, or doctor, or whoever it may be, just help somebody.”

The event was a result of hard work and dedication from TNT analyst and former Houston Rocket Kenny Smith in setting up an essential fund for the survivors of Hurricane Katrina. Prior to the game, over $1 million dollars worth of products, food, clothing, and services had been raised due to the contributions of Smith and his NBA peers. Every seat that had been allotted for the game was sold out. Every one of the 30 NBA players particpating contributed $10,000 or more. However, Smith, among others, emphasized that the game was just one part of what is to be a grand and committed effort towards rebuilding cities and getting survivors’ lives back on track.

“Today is not just a one day event. These peoples’ lives continue after this game,” Smith said. “It’s important to realize the bigger picture while you’re helping the smaller picture. You have to provide them furniture and you have to provide housing. And then you let them help themselves after you help them.”

As memorable a moment it was for the survivors of Katrina, it was just as significant a weekend for the NBA players who were involved. Players were able to experience firsthand the grief and destruction that many families are suffering through. It left a lasting impression that will never be forgotten.

“Today we went to a shelter about 35 minutes away,” Garnett said. “We were taking some pictures, and it started to get crowded. Everybody was taking pictures, and I heard this man from the side, and he was trying to tell, I guess it was his girl or whoever it was, how ‘these are the only pictures we’ll be able to have because all the pictures that we had and all the stuff we had were basically drowned and flooded.’ So another hour we sat there, but we got each and every last one of those people pictures. It was cool.”