Three minutes into The Jamal Crawford A Plus Classic, former Gonzaga star Jeremy Pargo served up his third slam dunk, a full wheelhouse affair that brought the home crowd to its feet.
“We were just having a lot of fun,” Pargo said after heaving his sneakers into the crowd and walking off the court in socks.
They did that all night long, NBA stars bringing back to Spokane some of the extraordinary talent that in many cases was nurtured in the Inland Northwest.
Even after the game, Pargo was reminiscing about his time at GU and looking ahead to the Zags “keeping it going next year.”
Pargo’s 44 points didn’t even make him high scorer for the White team, which beat the Purple squad 159-148 in an overtime that was served up by a pair of intentionally missed free throws at the end of regulation.
For a crowd that had already received its money’s worth, this was a bonus.
Former Washington star Nate Robinson led all scorers with 45 points, even while signing autographs during every break in the action.
In addition to Pargo, there was Klay Thompson of Washington State, Rodney Stuckey of Eastern Washington and big group that either prepped in Seattle or played at the University of Washington.
A crowd of about 3,562 saw what may have been the most talented lineup seen in the Arena. With most of the players having Northwest ties, everybody had a rooting section.
Even John Wall, the Washington Wizards star and former No. 1 NBA pick out of Kentucky, who set an unofficial charity game record with a thunderous slam just 6 seconds into the game.
Wall led the Purple team with 35 points.
The game was the brainchild of Crawford, who prepped at Seattle’s Rainier Beach High before playing at Michigan.
“The charity game we hosted last summer at KeyArena was such a great event on so many levels,” Crawford said. “It was so rewarding to bring that game to Seattle fans, as well as to see the players having fun on the court. It’s great to bring it to Spokane.”
The A PLUS Youth Program is a youth development program that combines educational support, mentorship and competitive basketball.
“I think it means everything to the kids,” Crawford said. “It’s an honor to participate in this. I think all the players, they see exactly how important this is.”
Crawford said he had no trouble selling the event to his NBA colleagues, a job made easier with instant messaging. It also offered a chance to forget about the NBA free-agent rumors, including his situation as at least five teams vie for his services next season.
The free-agent guard made a 40-footer as the third-quarter buzzer sounded.
“We’ve had a great time in Spokane,” Crawford said. “We’ve been doing all the Hoopfest things. This is such a great town.”
The game was as informal as it gets, even before tipoff.
Ten minutes before tipoff, toddlers were shooting layups from dads’ shoulders and autographs were given generously during warmups.
A few players, including Brandon Roy and former Zag Austin Daye, were no-shows, so the teams had seven players each, wearing purple or white. Inexplicably, the team in white included ex-University of Washington stars Robinson, Spencer Hawes, Isaiah Thomas and Will Conroy, accustomed to wearing purple.
“We’ll have to live with it,” Hawes shrugged just before tipoff.
The game was freewheeling to the extreme, with players taking every shot except the 10-foot jumper.
Layups were passed up and the ball sent downtown, where it usually came back to find nothing but net.
With defense an afterthought, the players also took unselfishness to an extreme, serving more alley-oops than an old Sunday comic strip. Some of them went awry – spectacularly.
Showmanship came in abundance, with self-service, off-the-glass slams against a willing defense, and long-range shots from downtown.
In the second quarter, Wall dazzled the crowd and the defenders with his dribbling skills and drives to the hoop.