by Aggrey Sam
I gotta hand it to the D-League: at least they’re willing to try something new, or at least retro. Earlier last evening, while most of the SLAM crew was still in transit, I was at Jam Session inside the New Orleans Convention Center. Following the celebrity all-star game (which I avoided like my life depended on it) and my shift at the PeacePlayers International table, I headed over to the D-League Dream Factory, a skills competition that featured a three-point shootout (typical), a dunk contest (interesting, but regular), a hot-shot game pairing a D-League all-star and a fan and a H-O-R-S-E competition.
The Dakota Wizards’ Carlos Powell and a local kid named Will bested Bakersfield Jam point guard Andre Barrett and a fan named Mike in hot shot, which was followed by an unenthusiastic game of H-O-R-S-E (but props to D-League prez Dan Reed for putting it out there), which pitted Utah Flash swingman Morris Almond (aka “if you drop 50 in the D-League, does anybody, better yet Jerry Sloan, pay attention?”) against the Idaho Stampede’s Lance Allred in the finals. While both players made some difficult shots and I know they’re not NBA players (although they are aspiring), they’re still professionals and the sparse crowd in the arena wanted to see a show. In the three-point shootout, which featured seven racks with three balls apiece, Tulsa 66ers sniper Adam Harrington easily defeated Kaniel Dickens of the Colorado 14ers. The dunk contest, always the highlight of any league’s all-star festivities, gave the night its drama, as Idaho teammates Brent “Air Georgia” Petway and Mike Taylor battled for the crown, with Petway ultimately taking it on a through-the-legs windmill flush off the bounce that brought the house down.
The Dream Factory still has a ways to go, but with some refinement to the H-O-R-S-E contest and expanding fan-friendly features like hot shot and having young fans choose between dunks they want players to pull off (but next time, I’m not sure Tim Hardaway needs to be there; I have no issue with the man personally, but it might be too soon), I see a lot of promise. No Sports Guy (who was actually one of the dunk contest judges; he was probably there to observe the H-O-R-S-E game, as he constantly pushes the NBA to adopt it into its All-Star Saturday format, which I support), but my suggestion is a one-on-one challenge, so fans can actually see the skills of some of the more talented D-League players. Shout out to D-League PR guru Larry Berger, my man Shawn Respert, Kristen Wise from adidas, Jack Washington from McDonogh 35 and all the kids from New Orleans who played with and against the depleted adidas Brotherhood crew this morning at Jam Session. Speaking of which, staying up all night to get ready for that event doesn’t excuse the lateness of this post, but I hope people understand.