LeBron James crossed over a defender on the baseline and sent home a ferocious slam. The next possession, he threw down another one.
If this were any other year, James and his Miami Heat teammates would be at home tonight against the Utah Jazz.
Instead, because of the NBA lockout, the star Heat forward along with a slew of other NBA superstars was in Southaven, Miss., Tuesday playing in a charity game put on by Memphis Grizzlies forward Rudy Gay at the Desoto Civic Center.
All proceeds from the exhibition go to Gay’s Flight 22 Foundation fund, which benefits childhood education.
“We definitely had fun out there,” Gay said. “It was a big turnout as far as players. I’m grateful for all the guys that came out.”
Led by James, who scored 43 points, the Blue team defeated Gay’s white team, 158-151. Gay led all scorers with 45 points.
It was a treat for the estimated 6,000 or so fans in attendance, who would otherwise have no opportunity to see any NBA players in action. NBA commissioner David Stern canceled all games in November due to distance between the league and the player’s union in labor negotiations.
Still, on a light-hearted night for the fans in the arena, the labor strife was impossible to ignore.
“It’s a sensitive subject right now,” James said. “As a player, I want to play. Hopefully the owners … and the players get something done, because we want to play. It’s just a sensitive subject and I want to stay away from it right now.”
James urged the fans to “stay with us,” and said that he and his fellow NBA players are all but ready to start playing in games that count again.
“We play the game of basketball for them,” James said. “This is why we do a game (like tonight), because the fans.”
Sacramento Kings guard Tyreke Evans, who played his college basketball at Memphis, said the lockout gets tougher by the day.
“As those games go by, you look back and go, ‘We had a game today,’” Evans said. “We just gotta wait and see what happens.”
The players wore jerseys bearing the initials “BBNS,” which stands for Basketball Never Stops. Gay said the acronym sent the message that the NBA players don't intend to give in.
“It's not a cliché,” Gay said. “It’s true. We’re not going to be bullied. We’re going to find a way to go out there and have fun and do as much as we can.”