by Peter Walsh / @goinginsquad
Never thought you’d see guys like Dominique Wilkins, Shawn Kemp, Tim Hardaway, Penny Hardaway and Steve Francis hit the court again? Well, thanks to former NBA player Anthony Avent—founder of Legends Entertainment Group—those flocking to Houston for All-Star Weekend will have the chance to see former NBA stars take the court. Avent will be hosting the “Official Legends Game” which will be held on Saturday, February 16 at University of Houston’s Hofheinz Pavilion. The event will feature a roster of classic players from the ‘80s and ‘90s taking place in a light shootaround, a three-point contest and finally, the Legends game.
“This year, we decided it was a great opportunity to put on the Legends game to celebrate our players,” says Avent. “We thought we could do it by combining different eras of guys…Part of the concept was to create a Legends shootaround and walkthrough for guys who can only play halfcourt non-contact…Then we’ll pull out the classic shooters—the Craig Hodges’, the Eddie Johnsons and Dale Ellis’ and let them compete in a three-point contest. Then, we’ll proceed with the Legends game itself which will involve those guys who can still entertain and have a brand, following and audience and bring all that together to play. Guys like Penny Hardaway, Bonzi Wells, James Posey, Steve Francis, Dale Davis and guys from that era…The beauty of the event is you don’t have to show up to an autograph session to see these guys. You can actually relax, grab some popcorn and watch a performance.”
Avent started running these events during All-Star Weekend four years ago in Los Angeles when he put together a three-on-three Legends challenge. Since then, each subsequent event has drawn more former players and even more fans. “Basketball is one of the few sports that so many guys can still get out and perform and engage the fans with their audience. There was no platform and that’s what I went out to start,” explains Avent. “I never saw the reason why a guy who spent so many years mastering the game had to pretty much just disappear from his audience and his fan base.”
Many former players, especially those that are not Hall of Famers or working a commentary gig, are forgotten once they leave the NBA. In reality, their playing days are just the first part of their careers and almost all of them go on to work outside of the game. “To put that platform in place to give the players a place to brand and market themselves and introduce people to new and different endeavors that they are doing now, that was the original goal,” says Avent. “That and to create a sense of history for younger players and fans in general so they can come out and see the guys their parents talked about.”
This year’s event in Houston promises to be Legends Entertainment Group’s biggest, most star-studded event yet. Along with seeing some of the best players ever all on the court together, what makes the Legends events so great are the charitable initiatives Avent and his team take. This year’s event in Houston will benefit the Rodney Rogers Foundation, a non-profit foundation to assist those in a paralyzed condition (Rogers was tragically paralyzed in an accident in 2008) and the Brian Grant Foundation, a non-profit for those living with Parkinson’s (Grant was diagnosed with Parkinson’s upon retirement).
“The whole concept in bringing all these legends together is absolutely to support different charities and non-profit organizations,” says Avent. “Being a legend is about giving back. [Along with Brian and Rodney’s foundation] we’re also supporting other non-profits in the Houston area like the Special Olympics and the Houston chapter that works and helps underprivileged kids.”
With the success of past events and the anticipation of this year’s Official Legends Game, Avent is understandably and rightfully excited. “I think it’s the biggest event in Houston period next to the All-Star game itself,” says Avent. “I don’t know what event s more exciting than watching the guys you grew up admiring again. To see them come out again and entertain the fans an have them give thanks to the fans who supported them their whole career will be special.”
For more information and to purchase tickets, visit teamlegends.net. For all readers in the Houston area or attending All-Star Weekend, keep it locked to SLAMonline for a chance to win two tickets to the Official Legends Game next week!