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While the most exciting part of this video is undoubtedly Kevin Kemp's dunk, the interview with the kids near the one minute mark is quite funny.
Kevin Kemp's dunk at the Adonai Hood Classic
At one point during the 2010 NBA Dunk contest, TNT analyst Reggie Miller commented, "Right now, these guys are doing dunks I've done in the Calabassas rec center."
It wasn't so much that the players were has-beens, but that they seemed uninspired, almost as though we had officially reached the limits of human dunking creativity. Of course, that would assume that the world's best dunkers are in the NBA.
Kevin Kemp's dunk at the 2010 Adonai Hood Classic with Nate Robinson looking on as judge might not have been the most technically sophisticated dunk you've ever witnessed. But it brought the house down simply because it brought an element of unpredictability to something that we all think we can pretty readily predict. Even three-time NBA Dunk Contest winner Nate Robinson who was judging the competition was in disbelief, according to Seattle Times reporter Ron Newberry.
Will Conroy leads Garfield past Rainier Beach in Adonai Hood Classic final
Kevin Kemp, a graduate of Tacoma's Lincoln High School who didn't play basketball in college and is currently playing overseas in France, got a thunderous ovation for his acrobatic winning dunk.
As Garfield coach Ed Haskins held a basketball in the air, Kemp leapt over Haskins, put the ball under his leg with one hand and dunked it with the other. Robinson, a three-time winner of the NBA's slam dunk contest, was one of the Hood Classic's dunk contest judges. He was floored.
"Unbelievable," Robinson said. "Totally unbelievable."
While even "new" dunks might draw from a limited set of archetypes, dunking as an artform is fundamentally about making a name for oneself by showing up the competition with acrobatic athletic feats. It's not always about technical difficulty, but coming with an idea and pulling it off before anyone else does it. The best dunks stretch the limits of our imagination a little, with a combination of grace and power with the flair of alpha male bravado. So it's probably reasonable to say that there is no better place to incubate dunks than in the informal and unstructured tournament that glorifies a streetball ethic.
Runner-up William Bullard's dunk
Spencer Hawes in the Adonai Hood Classic three point contest
Decked out in Seattle Sonics gear, Philadelphia Sixers center Spencer Hawes was among the most engaged NBA players at the tournament not only representing his school in the 3-point contest, but also warming up for the contest with a group of kids and participating in a friendly (and seemingly corrupt) game of knockout with fans and coaches.
For Hawes, whose alma mater Seattle Prep is a first time participant in the tournament, the game is a chance to maintain the basketball culture that took a big hit with the loss of the Sonics.
"This is great -- I wish I had been able to play yesterday," said Hawes, referring to the fact that he did not play in Seattle Prep's game yesterday. "But it's a lot of fun to see so many familiar faces from growing up playing in this area, so many guys I've known throughout the years, all coming together and trying to put on a show for the community and the kids -- that's what it's really about. These kids got their team robbed, and so for the guys from around here, to give them a little taste of basketball and coming out and seeing guys like Jamal (Crawford) and Terrence (Williams) and everybody playing yesterday -- Tre (Simmons) and Will (Conroy) and all those guys -- it's fun, it's fun to see and as a fan it's a good environment."
To truly appreciate the Adonai Hood Classic, you probably need to free yourself from rigid expectations of players surrendering themselves to the team concept or expecting coaches to bark out elaborate offensive sets.
Every moment of the event — from the three-point contest to the dunk contest to the games themselves — is about bragging rights. Winning and losing matter only to the extent that they elevate one’s own legacy.
"In the hood you gotta make a name for yourself," said the MC while making fun of eventual three point champion Morris Anderson about being from Federal Way, a city along the highway between Seattle and Tacoma.
In basketball terms, that means players are more often looking to pull off a one-on-one play to show up their opponents to please the crowd than adhering to the basic principles that might please purists. While it can degenerate into sloppy play at times, the aggression and intensity from the players also creates a vibrant atmosphere that can bring almost anyone back to the days when all that mattered was beating your cross-town rival.
This weekend, the player who best embodied that spirit among a talented field of competition was Will Conroy.
Conroy scored 24 in the 4th quarter to lead Garfield to a 110-105 victory over Terrence Williams’ Rainier Beach squad, defeating the tournament’s reigning championship. In a game defined by the play of its most talented stars, it was Conroy’s relentless drives to the basket that ended up leading to victory. Although a significant portion of those 24 points were free throws, high man and a championship are certainly enough to take home the bragging rights.
Conroy suggested that those bragging rights are not only about the community of faithful supporters looking on from the bleachers in the renovated gym of his alma mater, but also the growing community of NBA players from the Seattle area.
"It means a lot," said Conroy, who finished with 34 points for the game. "The trophy, not so much. But winning the game is more important because a lot of us are very close knit. We’re kinda putting Seattle on the map as far as basketball. So throughout the season, all of us are keeping track of each other and supporting one another. So when we get back into stuff like this it’s one of the few times that we compete…so this kinda means something."
Looking at Will Conroy’s basketball resume, it might not be immediately obvious why the "2010 Adonai Hood Classic Tournament Champion" item would mean anything at all.
He left the University of Washington in 2005 as the school’s all-time career assists leader (505). Along with Portland Trail Blazers star Brandon Roy, he helped lead UW to its first ever #1 seed in the 2005 NCAA men’s basketball tournament. After bouncing in and out of the NBA over the last few years, he was called up from the NBA D-League to play for the Houston Rockets briefly in March and has been invited to participate in their training camp later this fall. However, the Hood Classic is something far more personal for the players involved.
"You see how much it means to everybody," said Rainier Beach alum and NBA free agent Nate Robinson, who played in the NBA Finals for the Boston Celtics and judged the dunk contest but did not play in the championship game. "This is our championship game. This is our Finals. It’s basically like hood bragging rights and everything so we take this serious."
Things got serious enough for referees to call a technical foul and an extended delay in the second quarter after a hard foul from Garfield’s Tre Simmons. However, after each incident it was as though the intensity was taken up another notch or two, both further engaging the crowd and reinforcing the players’ desire to pull off highlight reel plays.
Once again, Terrence Williams was arguably the most impressive player despite losing scoring a game-high 41 points and once again raining threes on his opponents. Roderick Stewart scored 21 for Rainier Beach, similarly making his name from the three point line.
However, it was the aggression of Conroy plus the steady play of Tre Simmons that ultimately won the game for Garfield. Simmons finished with 31 points and just seemed to be in the right place at the time on offense, cutting to the basket for layups, taking advantage of overplaying defenders with baseline drives for reverse layups, and hitting a few threes of his own. Yet what stood out most was his defense early on of Williams, a 2009 NBA lottery pick who had a solid rookie campaign including eight triple doubles.
Simmons shut down Williams early on as Garfield jumped out to a 17-8 lead, forcing him into contested fall away jumpers and denying penetration. After that, Williams and Stewart helped rally Rainier Beach back to a 49-49 tie at halftime. The continued to go back and forth with Rainier Beach leading by as many as 9 points over the hosts late in the third before Conroy took over in the fourth.
Yet even in a game that quickly became a showcase of individual talents, what makes it fun for players and fans alike is seeing players like Conroy and Simmons go toe to toe with a nationally recognized player like Williams and actually come away with the bragging rights. Even for players like Robinson or Jamal Crawford who did not play, the tournament
"It’s just a lot of fun," said Jamal Crawford, 2010 NBA Sixth Man of the Year who experienced the NBA Playoffs for the first time in his 10-year career this season for the Atlanta Hawks. "People here are going to go against you, root against and nobody’s backing down. Everybody has a lot of pride to go to your school. So it’s a lot of fun to be a part of."
That’s something that anyone who has ever played basketball can relate to, even if our careers ended when we left high school.
For more on the game, see Ron Newberry's recap at the Seattle Times.
It might be reasonable to assume that with Minnesota Timberwolves wing Martell Webster absent and Philadelphia 76ers center Spencer Hawes cheering his team from the bench, Seattle Prep would have no chance against Rainier Beach.
Even without Nate Robinson — pound-for-pound one of the NBA’s biggest personalities — Beach featured 2010 NBA Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford and April 2010 Rookie of the Month Terrence Williams. Yet Seattle Prep seemed to catch Beach off guard a little with the game actually teetering on the edge of a blowout for long stretches of time.
Then with under three minutes left in the third quarter, Williams caught fire from the three point line and led Rainer Beach to a come from behind 88-81 victory.
In his first NBA season, Williams shot 31% from the three point line. It doesn’t really matter what percentage he shot from the high school line against Prep. What matters is that they just kept going in after he got hot. With Beach having already cut the lead to six, Williams hit three consecutive threes within 50 seconds of game time from all around the arc to tie the game at 59 with 1:51 left, earning increasingly louder support from the Garfield crowd.
Williams was just toying with players, stepping back, throwing pump fakes to watch defenders go by, and waiting for people to step up before he shot it. Seattle Prep’s Jeffrey Day (University of Washington/Creighton University ‘06) tried to keep his team in the game with similarly hot shooting — at one point the MC behind the DJ table announced that Day had hit 8 threes — but Williams just wouldn’t let up. In the final minute of the third, Williams hit two threes while Day hit one and the fourth quarter began with Beach up two on their way to a rout.
In the fourth we got to see a little fun from Rainier Beach — Crawford dribbling the ball up the court backwards between his legs and Williams with a powerful tomahawk dunk.
In addition to Rainier Beach’s showdown with Garfield in tomorrow’s championship game (5 pm), these two schools are scheduled for more fun tomorrow. After doing a little coaching and handing out Gatorade from the bench today, Hawes is expected to compete in the three point contest while reigning Hood Classic three point contest champion Nate Robinson is expected to show up as well to compete tomorrow.
Doors open at 4 pm tomorrow for the dunk contest and three point shootout.
If you had never been to an Adonai Hood Classic before, University of Louisville point guard Peyton Siva’s performance in Franklin’s 102-99 loss to Garfield in the tournament opener was a good introduction.
Star Garfield alumni Will Conroy (University of Washington ’05) and Tre Simmons (Washington ’05) joined Siva in returning to a hot high school gym in Seattle from various places around the world to play for little more than school pride. That Franklin played the game with only five players only added to the drama of the game and made the game well worth the time and sweat.
The undermanned Franklin squad opened the fourth quarter with a 2 point lead and showing a 2-3 zone, possibly a sign of fatigue from a program normally known for it’s aggressive pressure defense after an intense third quarter. Garfield began the second half down 5 points but in the third quarter, Conroy just stepped it up a notch.
Conroy was relentless in the third period, seemingly going directly to the basket every time he touched the ball. Whereas Garfield had a difficult time stopping Siva from getting in position to set up others in the first half, Franklin had no answer for stopping Conroy from getting to the basket in the third. The contrast in styles between the two guards created a growing tension that could be felt throughout the gym as Franklin looked to upset the host team.
However, the excitement of the fourth quarter was not necessarily defined by stars stepping up, but by both teams surviving lapses in the waning minutes of the game. With the game tied at 95 with 2:38 left, Garfield made turnovers on consecutive possessions, the second by Simmons in the paint. Franklin returned the favor by missing two free throws on the other end before Conroy missed an alley oop layup and put back attempt on the next possession with his team down two points.
Yet while everybody in the gym expected the ball to go to Siva with the game on the line, Franklin used him as a decoy while he was blanketed by the Garfield defense. Instead they went to Alvin Snow (Eastern Washington ’04) who had been the recipient of a number of passes for three pointers from Siva. That proved to be the difference as Franklin came up empty on their next possession and then after Marcelus Kemp (Nevada ’08) hit a three to put Garfield up 1, Snow turned the ball over after being trapped by Garfield defenders. Conroy got the ball ahead of the defense to seal the game with a breakaway layup as time expired.
Nevertheless, the story of this game was still Siva’s performance. In contrast to the aggression and power of Conroy’s performance in the third, Siva was patient and smooth in everything he did no matter what Garfield threw at him. On an afternoon in which Siva seemingly got wherever he wanted on the court to set up others with a variety of basic bounce passes, misdirections, behind the back and wrap-around passes, his most impressive might have been the subtlest. Late in the third quarter, Siva found himself tripled in the backcourt along the right sideline. He effortlessly stopped on a dime to freeze the defender directly in front of him to open up a passing lane to Jason Robbins on the opposite sideline, which led to another cross-court pass and a fast break layup.
Yeah, it’s only a charity tournament against fringe NBA talent, but Siva clearly demonstrated the difference between a D1 talent and great high school players. The calm and patience with which Siva picked apart Garfield’s defense in nearly leading a five-man squad to victory was quite remarkable, even if you might have come to the game expecting such an outcome. What makes the tournament in general and Siva’s performance in particular so special is that a guy who regularly plays in front of 16,000+ fans across the country came back to his hometown to put his skills on display, sign autographs, and stop by the bleachers to say hello to friends.
In a world in which we seem to be getting more distant from even homegrown NBA athletes, the Hood Classic can be a refreshing experience.
The exact schedule of the Adonai Hood Classic has yet to be determined because the organizers are trying to work out the schedules of a few of the NBA guys.
In the meantime, here is a general sense of how things will go:
Saturday, July 10:
4 p.m.: Game 1
6 p.m.: Game 2
Sunday, July 11
4 p.m.: 3-point/Dunk contests
5 p.m.: Championship game
We will post the update on who is playing when as soon as we get it.
Seattle basketball fans might not have a NBA team to root for during an off-season headlined by among the best free agent classes ever and defined by LeBron-mania. However, that doesn't mean the city is left wanting for basketball culture. As described by Seth Kolloen of The SunBreak and Kelli Anderson of Sports Illustrated earlier this year, Seattle city high schools have produced more NBA talent per capita than any city in the U.S.
So consider the Adonai Hood Classic on July 10th & 11th at Garfield High School as both a celebration of local talent and perhaps one more reason why this city deserves a NBA team (assuming there's a reasonable way to pay for it).
Of note this year is that O'Dea High School has been replaced by Seattle Prep, meaning Spencer Hawes (recently traded to the Philadelphia 76ers) and Martell Webster (recently traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves) are scheduled to participate this year, which will make the tournament a bit more interesting (O'Dea has been a perennial doormat, as described by Aaron Brooks in the video below).
Other NBA players expected to participate as of today:
Last year's winners:
Three point contest: Nate Robinson
Slam dunk contest: Justin Dentmon (University of Washington/2010 Charlotte Bobcats summer league)
Tournament champions: Rainier Beach (def Garfield - Roy did not play)
Tournament championship Player of the Game: CJ Giles (Rainier Beach/2010 Golden State Warriors summer league)
The post tournament wrap-up from the 2009 Hood Classic:
Tickets for the Hood Classic are $12 for adults and $8 for children. Tournament schedule coming soon.
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