by Maurice Bobb / @ReeseReport

When it comes to NBA All-Star Weekend and its events, there’s a natural order to things: The players play and the writers write. But thanks to Li-Ning, a China-based sneaker and athletic apparel company founded by Olympic medal-winning gymnast Li-Ning, basketball scribes, bloggers and sneakerheads got a chance to put down their pens and laptops for a moment and lace ‘em up for the 2nd Annual Media Run Pickup Game at Celebration HS in Orlando.

The folks over at Li-Ning provided the “players” with full uniforms down to the socks. The idea was to have all the would-be ballers try out the new Turningpoint Year of the Dragon kicks, designed by brand spokesperson and NBA shooting guard Evan Turner, in-game situations, rather than just experience them via press kits with pictures in JPEG format to then compose reviews for their respective readers.

Speaking of which, the custom raised herringbone outsole and midsole technology of the Turningpoints created maximum traction for holding court and quicker directional changes, which proved to be highly necessary, especially for those of us who needed extra assistance making cuts or coming to a complete stop after building momentum barreling down the court for a bunny. The shoes were surprisingly nimble, provided great ankle support and came in a stylish black and red colorway.

Now, back to the game:

This year’s contest acknowledged the rich heritage of the Li-Ning brand by evoking the symbol of the Chinese Lunar New Year: The Water Dragon. The teams were divided into two elements: Kuang (Wild, unrestrained, fiery power) and Yi (calm, cool and collected).

The game, hosted by TV star Michael O’Malley (Glee and Shameless), proved to be more competitive than expected, with players having a hard time negotiating the restrictions of a 24-second shot clock and referees making calls against erstwhile moves to the cup that included hacking, traveling, double dribbles and/or moving picks. There was plenty of color commentary from O’Malley, lots of airballs and too many turnovers to count, but in the end, the game got interesting and competitive, coming down to the wire in the closing minutes. Brandon Smith led all scorers with 20 points and willed the Yi team to a 55-47 victory. Of course, SLAM was a member of team Yi because, let’s face it, all we do is win, win, win, no matter what.

Not only did Team Yi get the W, but they were also presented with a sizable, shiny trophy and on-going bragging rights that will linger and sting Team Kuang until next year’s contest in Houston.

Also, as an added bonus, future journalists were treated to some career advice by none other than ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, who shared his personal story of triumph in the field and cautioned the high schoolers about selling themselves short and settling (professionally) on just having “a job.”

“You don’t want a job because a job is just something that you do so you can pay your bills,” Smith said. “And not only that, it just wears on you because you know in your heart you’re not doing what it is that you want to do. If you don’t have a passion for what you do, every day is going to be like work. But if you pursue a career, obviously that involves doing what you wanted to do. When you’re doing something you wanted to do, the only time it feels like work is when you’re tired. It’s a helluva lot harder to be tired if you love what you do and are having fun doing it. If you send that message to kids at this young age, they should be able to get it and they should be able understand it because if they don’t, there’s a heavier price to pay that they can imagine.”