It might be as close as Oklahoma City ever gets to hosting an All-Star game.
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Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin will play on opposing teams in an exhibition game next week at the Cox Convention Center, with LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul among the other NBA superstars expected to fill out the rosters.
”It’s the next best thing,” retired NBA player Desmond Mason, who helped organize the game, said Wednesday. ”This pretty much an All-Star game, I think. It’s going to be a lot of really good basketball players playing all in one game. So, I think it’s going to be fun.
”It’s our version of an All-Star game.”
Commissioner David Stern has said Oklahoma City, one of the league’s smaller markets, doesn’t have the hotel rooms and other infrastructure to host all that goes along with the real All-Star game. But the USFleetTracking Basketball Invitational, to be played Oct. 23, will be a rare chance for the community to witness many of the league’s stars playing together instead of just when they come in individually with their own NBA teams.
”Obviously, we get to see these players on a one-on-one basis over a (regular-season) schedule, but to get possibly half the All-Star team here on one night, it just doesn’t happen in markets this size,” said organizer Brad Lund of Sold Out Strategies.
Organizers said Durant and Griffin will choose nonprofit organizations, and some proceeds from the ticket sales will go to the charities. Lund some of the players’ expenses will be covered but ”the nonprofit will make more money than the players ever thought of making off of this game.”
”These guys are flying in on their own dime, they’re paying for their own hotel,” Mason said. ”This is something that Kevin has done and these guys have been doing for each other all summer long.
”It’s going to be maximum opportunity to really create proceeds and make large donations to charities that these guys decide to make those donations to.”
With players locked out by the NBA, Durant has played in a series of exhibition games, most recently in the Miami area last week. Now, it’s his turn to host one of the showcases in his part-time home. Oklahoma City teammates Russell Westbrook and James Harden are expected to play in the game, along with former Thunder forward Jeff Green, who was traded to Boston last season.
Mason said the plan is for each team to have eight to 10 players, all of them from the NBA.
”A lot of these guys just want to play,” Mason said. ”Kevin played in most people’s games all summer long, and now it’s his opportunity to have his own game that he’s hosting, along with Blake, and get some of the guys that he’s played in their games to come out and play.”
Tickets will go on sale Monday and range from $29 to $199 for courtside seats. Lund said the average ticket will cost about $50.
The NBA has already canceled all regular-season games through Nov. 14, and Mason said organizers ”feel comfortable with the date” even though there’s no telling when a deal on a collective bargaining agreement might be reached.
”Obviously, anything can happen,” he said. ”But they’ve still got to write the CBA up and get it all solidified.”