As the final moments of the United States team’s 113-101 victory over the Capital All Stars drew near the final score didn’t matter. Despite a morning tipoff and a less than cooperative venue a proud group of future college stars began the process of rebuilding the Capital Classic’s brand as the premiere high school all-star showcase in the country.
With local sponsorship and a new organization, the 44th annual Capital Classic moved back to the Verizon Center on April 8 in a symbolic move that restores credibility to the event. Before the Jordan Brand Classic – played at Chicago’s United Center and the McDonald’s High School All-America Game – played at NBA arenas around the country – it was the Capital Classic that set the standard for these elite basketball showcases. By moving this year’s game back to downtown D.C. and the home of the NBA’s Washington Wizards it took a great Euro step toward regaining its status.
“The iconic status of the Capital Classic is something that can’t be matched,” Capital Classic CFO and Hoop Culture title sponsor Pete Deoudes told the AFRO. “Unfortunately, the prominence of the game has subsided in recent years but we’ve made a commitment to bringing it back.”
At its inception, the Capital Classic was the premiere high school basketball showcase and made its biggest splash by giving Maryland basketball fans a glimpse of what may have been. The inaugural game in 1974 featured Moses Malone who opted not fulfill his commitment to the Terps and begin his hall of fame career in the now defunct American Basketball Association. In 44 years, the game’s roll call of great players is unprecedented.
The first time Michael Jordan and Patrick Ewing were on the same floor it was in the Capital Classic. Before his legendary career at Duke, Grant Hill played for Team USA. Twenty-five years ago, Jason Kidd was the game’s headliner. Carmelo Anthony was part of the class of 2002. LeBron James and Chris Paul were on center stage in 2003 before careers that would lead to championships and commercial endorsements.
“I really didn’t know much about the history of this game before my [high school] coach told me about it and how [the organizers] are trying to bring it back,” the game’s MVP and University of Minnesota prospect Isiah Washington of Bronx, New York told the AFRO. “It’s a blessing to compete here because in the future players will want to play in this game to follow in my footsteps like I’m following those great players who played before me.”
However, the reputation of the Capital Classic has diminished over the years. Jordan Brand, which had sponsored the event since 2002, left in 2014. Without a sneaker company as a corporate partner the game struggled. The event is currently sponsored by Hoop Culture, an apparel company.
After over 20 years playing between the venerable relic that was the Capital Centre, the MCI turned Verizon Center, and Comcast now Xfinity Center, the game was banished to smaller venues such as Catholic University and T.C. Williams High School in northern Virginia. While this generation of players only knows its history through YouTube highlights the opportunity to play in the game still resonates and offers a chance to join a unique basketball fraternity.
“This was the legendary one that started it all,” said center and University of North Carolina prospect Brandon Huffman. “A lot of guys I look up to have played in this game. It’s just an honor to be here”.