REPLAY of a Lifetime

by September 12, 2010

by Ryne Nelson

I’m now back home in Naperville, IL. I’m not in the same house, but just a couple blocks down the street. I’m in a room upstairs, that has my same green chair, same green lava lamp and same green (and white) bed comforter.

It’s really a blessing to be back. It feels comfortable, just like home.

Today, I’m a different person and a different writer. But I can’t help by smile just being here, remembering all the sights and smells and feelings associated with being up in my room, doing work. It was on this very chair I began piecing together the fantastic metaphors from the pages of SLAM – from Ben and Lang and Russ and Jake and, of course, Scoop… and Alan, and Khalid, and… I gotta stop. I’d incorporate the best phrases into my reports about the Naperville Central boys’ basketball team in the school newspaper.

Little did I know it, but that’s what changed me from a person who hated writing to an editor who has received a compliment or two in his day. I gotta tip my hat to incredible auspice as Gatorade presented me with an opportunity to literally go back to my roots and cover high school ball again. That’s powerful, no?

Just wait, there’s much more…

The alumni from Brother Rice and Bloom Township’s 2000 boys’ basketball teams got on the court Friday night to finally settle the score once and for all. As part of Gatorade REPLAY, the teams were reunited for a rematch of their playoff super sectional game that ended in a very controversial 42-40 Bloom victory.

A questionable last second tip-in gave Bloom the win and Brother Rice was sent packing.

To call this a rivalry wouldn’t be strong enough. Fans, at least in part, caused the problem in the first place. Ten years ago, noise hit decibels higher than that of the final buzzer. All sound was blurred into one deafening cheer. And the most important play of the season was decided by guesswork.

The ref who counted the basket still contends that the tip was before the buzzer. Others, however, are not so sure.

For anyone who’s forced to live with the ‘what ifs’ of an unsettled event, a chance to replay the past would be no less than a godsend. Thanks to Gatorade, Brother Rice and Bloom hooped on Cloud Nine for a night, finally getting a chance to settle the score once and for all.

Nearly everything was identical to the Y2K match: The crowd was still deafening, the coaches were roaming on the sidelines, Blink 182 and Matchbox 20 blared during timeouts, and emotions were still at an incredible high. In Y2K10, there were a few notable exceptions, though: Dwyane Wade, Dwight Howard and Carlos Boozer were on hand to provide expertise and knowledge in the highly anticipated rematch.

The journey to game day began two months ago when both teams started their training and nutrition program designed by the Gatorade Sports Science Institute (GSSI) and implemented by Velocity Sports Performance. From the get, Bloom and Brother Rice stayed true to the program. They took no shortcuts and weren’t looking for any.

As a result, both teams were able to double the original score in front of a sold-out, standing room only crowd at Chicago’s St. Xavier University.

As Adam pointed out last week, anyone can train just like these guys on the REPLAY site. (Not only does it show the work that went into this performance, but can give ex-hoopers a good program to follow to quickly get back into competitive form.)

“Collectively, there were guys on both teams that weren’t in the best shape. But, we were confident that with sound sports nutrition and proper athletic training they would be ready for game day,” said GSSI Principal Scientist, Dr. Kim White. “We had to make them remember there was an athlete in each of them and after eight weeks we saw a healthy decrease in body weight and body fat, gains in lean muscle mass and an increase in anaerobic capacity.”

While the score was tight, but it didn’t come down to a final play as it did 10 years prior. Led by Sidney Holmes III, current MVP of the Portugal Basketball League and cousin of Quentin Richardson, Brother Rice thoroughly controlled three of four quarters en route to a W, 99-93.

A one-hour documentary will air nationally on FOX Sports Net in November. But if you want a preview of the action and ambiance, check the video I cut up below. Other than Holmes and Bloom’s Joe Chapman (current BBL MVP), everyone stepped away from the game 10 years ago.

But the teams still looked fantastic.

It was unlike any game because, truly, an opportunity like this has never been staged on a basketball court. For these players, being able to put on their high school jerseys again and play in front of their family, friends and fans became a highlight of a lifetime. And there’s not a shred of superlative in that statement.

“To think that eight weeks ago we were wondering what we actually got ourselves into and now we get to celebrate one last win as a team in front of our family and friends,” said Holmes, who walked away with 22 points, 18 boards, 2 blocks and 1 Gatorade REPLAY MVP trophy. “Only a company like Gatorade could make this happen and I can probably speak for all of my teammates in saying that this is a once in a lifetime experience that won’t be forgotten.”

Players from both sides were all smiles after the final buzzer went off. And rightfully so. The post-game atmosphere closely resembled a high school reunion, with people were mingling around well after the concluding ceremonies. I walked through the crowd after it rushed the court and met everyone from alumni, to current freshman, from parents wearing vintage tees with their son’s high school pics to brothers and sisters who played for earlier editions of Bloom and Brother Rice basketball.

Fans were rushing to get Gatorade’s special edition, 32-oz. bottles with each high school’s logo imprinted on the front.

The game carried extra meaning for DWade since this same Brother Rice eliminated his high school team from the 2000 state playoffs. “When I heard about REPLAY I thought it was a cool concept because of how the opportunity positively impacts the players,” said Dwyane Wade. “I’m a competitor, so once I found out that I’d be coaching against Brother Rice and Dwight Howard I started thinking about game day.”

Dwyane ended up with another L, now 0-2 against Brother Rice and Howard (the two went head-to-head on the sidelines at the Rook/Soph game in Phoenix in ’09). But it was pretty clear that the final score wasn’t what mattered most.

It was really just a blessing to be back.