Durant to host charity basketball game in Oklahoma City with LeBron & (finally) Blake Griffin
Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant is making good on his promise to put on a charity exhibition game featuring his fellow NBA superstars. Details of the event are expected to be announced at a news conference Wednesday afternoon.
According to numerous sources with knowledge of the event, the game will pit two star-studded squads against each other, with one side being Durant’s team and the other being former Oklahoma star Blake Griffin‘s team. Miami Heat star LeBron James is one of several players who have been confirmed for the event. New Orleans guard Chris Paul and Heat guard Dwyane Wade also are expected to show.
The game is tentatively scheduled to be played Thursday, Oct. 27, inside the Cox Convention Center, which holds just shy of 14,000 for basketball. Other potential stars that could make an appearance include L.A. Lakers guard Kobe Bryant and New York forward Carmelo Anthony, as well as Thunder guards Russell Westbrook and James Harden.
Durant first told The Oklahoman last month that he would plan an exhibition featuring several of the league’s top players if the season did not start on time. On Monday, the NBA canceled the first two weeks of the regular season after players and owners failed to reach a deal on a new collective bargaining agreement. An initial snag was securing a suitable venue. Because of the league-imposed lockout, players are not permitted to use team facilities and NBA arenas. But once word of Durant’s intentions got out, promoters began lining up to offer their services to lock in a site and worthy charities. A deal was consummated in just days. But Durant told The Oklahoman in September he wants to make sure it’s done right.
“Everybody in Oklahoma City is going to want to see it,” Durant said. “I want to try to do it and get not just our players from our team but guys all around the league to come play in it and make it a nice event.”
Since the lockout began on July 1, Durant has been a part of a group of “barnstorming” players who’ve taken their talents to high school and college gyms across the country for high-octane pickup games. Durant has played in pickup games in Los Angeles, Maryland, Washington, D.C., and, most recently, Miami last Saturday.
Following the game in Miami on the campus of Florida International University, James, who hosted the event along with teammates Wade and Chris Bosh, sent Durant a message on Twitter saying, “Thanks for coming through homie! Looking forward to the one in OKC.”
Durant has explained his involvement in the exhibitions by saying he wants to give back to fans. Durant also has said the competition of the games is a good way to get better.
“Playing against NBA players around this time is really going to help,” Durant told The Oklahoman last month. “So it’s just a matter of me just going out there and hooping and enjoying it. I just do it for the love of the game, really.”
Tickets for the game have yet to go on sale, and it’s unclear how much they’ll cost when they become available. For last Saturday’s event in Miami, fans gobbled up 4,000 tickets ranging from $50 to $100 for upper and lower bowl sections. When the secondary ticket market began scalping tickets for more than 10 times the face value, FIU released last-minute courtside seats for $1,000 to satisfy the high-end ticket market and ensure the big bucks went back to charity. In Oklahoma City, the demand is expected to be high. The Thunder sold out 35 of 41 regular-season home games last season, as well as all nine of its home playoff games. The Thunder finished with a 99.7 percent capacity rate, tying the franchise with the Los Angeles Lakers for the eighth best mark in the 30-league team.
Bryan Mathews, 24, of Oklahoma City, described himself as “very excited” upon learning of the event.
“I would pay good money to go watch this game,” Mathews said.
The lingering lockout, however, has stained some fans’ passion.
Brad Valentine, 35, labeled himself a “frustrated season ticket holder” who can’t wait for a deal to get done. Valentine, an Oklahoma City resident, has no plans to attend the game.
“Charity for who?” Valentine asked. “The out-of-work players? It’s not real basketball. I could care less.”
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