On a night when tens of thousands of Baltimore City residents remained without power, Baltimore native Carmelo Anthony joined LeBron James, Chris Paul, and Kevin Durant to electrify an over-capacity crowd at Hill Field House at Morgan State University.
Anthony, James, and Paul took to the court as members the Baltimore-based Melo League, challenging Durant and a team of the Washington, D.C. Goodman League’s best. Durant led all scorers with 59 points on perhaps as many as 50 shots, but couldn’t find his touch in the clutch, as his squad fell, 149-141.
James led the Melo League with 32 points, according to ESPN, while Anthony posted 27. Paul contributed 16 points as well as a handful of assists that brought the crowd to their feet, and precision dribbling, with which he toyed with the Goodman League players. Goodman stars Austin Daye and Jarrett Jack added 23 and 13 respectively.
Days after Hurricane Irene tore through the Baltimore area, cutting power to wide swaths of Charm City, an upbeat, energetic crowd turned out to watch a lineup featuring four of the NBA’s top talent. The event was announced as a sellout for the 4,200-seat facility, but large entourages for each player and no shortage of media pushed the standing-room crowd into the lower aisles and around the court.
Fans stood in line for tickets as early as 10 a.m. Tuesday morning, according to Morgan State security personnel, and mobbed the campus box office when tickets went on sale shortly after 4:30 p.m. Those same fans crushed through a single doorway tightly controlled by campus security to enter the field house, a slow process which delayed the game’s scheduled 7 p.m. start until about 7:45 p.m.
But once inside, the crowd eagerly witnessed a freewheeling, wide-open style of play. Durant and James, the two best players on the court, held their own private sparring match, racing to each end, fiercely contesting each shot, reassigning teammates on defense and even nudging them out of the way to get a crack at each other.
“I think it's great, you know, got a high school feel to it,” James told ESPN. “KD is a great player and we're just out here having fun.”
With the crowd egging him on, Durant began hoisting three-point attempts throughout the first quarter, but struggled to find his range. James and Anthony had no such trouble early on, as they broke out windmill dunks and flashy assists to get the room buzzing.
Durant warmed up as the second quarter began, and squared off against James. Though an exhibition game, the NBA superstars played with intensity. James snapped several times at referees’ calls he disagreed with, and the already taciturn Durant seemed to grow visibly tense as the game wore on and the caliber of his opponents wore down his teammates.
The Melo League stormed into and out of the half, building a ten-point lead at halftime and widening the gap at the start of the third quarter with a bevy of three-pointers. The Goodman League stars trailed by as many as 26 points before several tough baskets by Daye midway through the fourth quarter and a few barely-contested shots at the end of the game cut the deficit.
The summer has seen an unusually high number of pro stars take to the streets amid the NBA lockout. Durant racked up 66 points in a stunning performance at Harlem’s Rucker Court and has logged time in several Goodman League games, while James and Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant have played in Los Angeles’ Drew League.
But the Tuesday event at Morgan State represented the most electrifying line-up of pro talent so far, for one night sending a jolt into a flat-lined basketball world.