The Sonics may be gone but Seattle native Jamal Crawford is making sure Seattleites still get a chance to see NBA All-Stars showcase their talents. Each summer the two-time Sixth Man of the Year winner brings his professional pals to Seattle Pacific University's Royal Brougham Pavilion for his Seattle Pro-Am, and the caliber of players attending increases with every passing year. Last year included appearances by evenutal NBA MVP (and former Sonic) Kevin Durant and the high-flying superstar Blake Griffin. Crawford has already said that the 2014 edition will feature at least six players who were All-Stars this year: Chris Paul, James Harden, Damian Lillard, John Wall, and LaMarcus Aldridge. They'll randomly be dropping in to play on certain weekends now through the end of August.
The Seattle Pro-Am is a unique sporting spectacle. It's mainly a high level league of Pacific Northwest players, with the stars being sprinkled in for a game or two each weekend. The games are organized, but it's extremely loose and carries a distinct pickup/streetball feel. Defense is clearly not the focus, and there's an unspoken code to allow guys to showboat a bit (at least until the end of the game when each squad is trying to win). (While the game is mostly about entertainment, there is some value for the players. I attended Blake Griffin's game last year and it was clear he was actually working on his shooting and ballhandling skills. His improvement in those two areas helped him finish 2013-14 season third in MVP voting behind only Durant and LeBron James.) The atmosphere is electric and a tad chaotic. Being packed into the sometimes sweltering Royal Brougham Pavilion isn't close to as posh as an NBA arena, but it's impossible to argue with $5 ticket price.
In addition to the big names, there are also plenty NBA players that aren't on the star level that make appearances, especially former Washington Husky ballers including Tony Wroten (who tore it up last weekend to open the Pro-Am and even made SportsCenter's Top 10 Plays with a sick crossover dribble) and Crawford's new Los Angeles Clippers teammate Spencer Hawes. Players that aren't even in the league can still shine (super athletic European pro Mike James particularly stands out). But more often than not, Crawford steals the show. While best utilized as a bench player in the NBA, his game truly thrives in the free and loose context of the Pro-Am's game. He's often the best player on the court as he displays dribbling moves that make defenders look foolish and drains insanely difficult jumpers from almost any spot on the floor. It's Crawford's court and he makes sure the crowd knows it.
The only trick to seeing the NBA talent at the Seattle Pro-Am is keeping up to date with social media. The guest All-Stars aren't offically scheduled in advance, so the best way to keep track of which players will show up any given weekend is by following Jamal Crawford on Twitter (@JCrossover).
Seattle Pro-Am 2014
Thru Aug 31, Seattle Pacific University’s Royal Brougham Pavilion, $5