Before tonight's NC Pro-Am games, I struggled with the decision of whether or not I would mention, on this blog, the senseless shootings that took place at Wednesday night's Rucker Park Entertainers Basketball Classic in Harlem, NY, which left five people injured. After all, sometimes we do describe ourselves as "The Rucker of the South"; but earlier this summer, after this The Herald-Sun story ran, which suggested that this year's NC Pro-Am would somehow be plagued by gang violence, I wanted to stay away from entertaining any negative portrayals of North Carolina's (and the nation's) premier summer league. So, as long as we can all agree, that here in Durham, NC, inside N.C. Central's McLendon-McDougald Gymnasium, during NC Pro-Am play, absolutely NOTHING has resembled anything CLOSE to the unfortunate events that went down at last night's Rucker incident, then I'm alright.
Aside from that, on a hot and muggy Thursday night, NC Pro-Am definitely lived up to being "The Rucker of the South" for basketball showmanship. It took less than an hour for the Twitter world to blow up with news and mentions of former UNC guard, Justin Watts' gym-rocking alley-oop dunk. No one saw it coming. Watts appeared, in the air, out of nowhere. In slow motion, he looked like a long-jumper, but stretching both arms above his head, signaling like an NFL referee would for a touchdown. Then, he caught the ball and threw it down with both hands, with a defender's arm in his face. Then, a bunch of people from the stands went berserk and ran onto the court. And then, Watts gave a slick wink to his NC Pro-Am teammates and his former Tar Heel teammates on the sideline--all equally amazed at his high-flying highlight. It was a shared acknowledgement that the whole gymnasium had just witnessed one of the summer's most "SportsCenter"-worthy plays. This is "Grown Man Ball".
|UNC's P.J. Hairston, Darius Johnson-Odom (L.A. Lakers) and Quincy Miller (Denver Nuggets) came to PLAY!|
Watts' dunk nearly overshadowed the presence of Raleigh's Darius Johnson-Odom, who was acquired by the L.A. Lakers in last month's NBA Draft. The first thing you should know is that our public address announcer, Bill Murphy, doesn't particularly care for the Lakers. He made this known several times while Johnson-Odom was on the court. But, the most important thing you should know is that Johnson-Odom put on a one-man dunk clinic which included one-handed windmill slams and muscle dunks. In the upcoming 2012-2013 NBA season, he'll be playing behind L.A. Lakers point-guards Steve Nash and Steve Blake, but neither one of those guys have Johnson-Odom's youth or athleticism. He worked-out both of those assets on Thursday night, in back-to-back games, and put up 26 points behind N.C. Central's Dominique Sutton's game-high 27 points in the Dreamworks vs. Hendricks of Durham game.
But perhaps the greatest moment of the night came when UNC's P.J. Hairston went on a blocking, dunking, and shooting-spree; and then playfully taunted some of his regular hecklers (Duke fans). Hairston gave them the infamous Hulk Hogan, hand-to-the-ear pose before his team (Sheraton Imperial) walked off the court victoriously. Sometimes families argue with each other, and sometimes they get along, but everyone is gonna leave with some good memories. Clean competition. NC Pro-Am is built for that.