NBA players heat up the Palestra

Posted: September 26, 2011

THE ARGUMENT started between Carmelo Anthony and Hakim Warrick many years ago, when the two were teammates at Syracuse University.

Anthony, a Baltimore native, insisted that the ball played there is better than anywhere else, including in Warrick's Philadelphia. As the two continued their journeys through the NBA, their argument continued to build.

Though last night's "Battle of I-95," pitting Team Melo against Team Philly, probably isn't the definitive measure of which city has the best ballers, it did produce a distinct winner: the nearly 9,000 fans who stuffed the Palestra to watch such mega-stars as Anthony, LeBron James and Chris Paul.

What was anticipated as a glorified street game actually turned into quite a competitive battle, with Philly gaining a 131-122 win at the stifling-hot Palestra.

The atmosphere was more fitting for a rock concert. Though slated to start at 6 p.m., the sellout crowd patiently waited out the near 45-minute delayed start. And when the game finally got under way, there wasn't a dry eye in the house - nor a dry shirt, brow or face.

You got the feeling that if there was supposed to be some kind of cooling system running through the old place, players from years gone past made sure it wasn't operational. This was not the type of basketball the Palestra is used to hosting.

At least for one night, the term "NBA lockout" was put on the back burner (pardon the pun). James was booed as lustily as he was when he was leading the Miami Heat past the 76ers in the first round of the playoffs back in April. Chris Paul displayed ball-handling ability that doesn't seem humanly possible, and Carmelo Anthony was Carmelo Anthony, which is good enough for him to be mentioned with the best players in the world.

"It's a little bit different," said Penn alum and basketball coach Jerome Allen. "But people in this city are big basketball fans and they appreciate watching the best in the world in LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul and all those guys out there. I'm a Sixers fan, I'm a fan of basketball, so I love watching this. I've been a player on the professional level, I've always been a fan and now I'm a coach. And I've always appreciated how good the best players are. I had to catch myself from cheering sometimes, because that wouldn't be right."

What was right was the entertainment. And the will to win.

"This was a great time and a good game to kind of gauge where you are," said 76ers guard Lou Williams, who scored 31 points for Philly. "Any time you get a chance to get out and run against real good competition, you have to take advantage of it. It was a great atmosphere out there, made greater because you had a bunch of players who wanted to beat each other."

The game raised $25,000 for "Building a Better Basketball Camp" in both the Philadelphia and Baltimore areas. To a player, that was more important than what the scoreboard said at the end of the game.

"I'm glad it's over," said Warrick with a laugh. "It got a little bigger than I thought. I really appreciate the guys coming out on both sides and the city loved it. I knew the guys I had would go out and give 100 percent. Me and Carmelo have been talking about doing this for a long time. I'm glad we did.

"And we won."

When the game was over, Warrick and Anthony shared a good-natured laugh on the court, though Warrick's smile appeared to be just a little wider.

Game notes

LeBron James, who played with a noticeable scowl throughout the night, led Team Melo with 43 points, while Carmelo Anthony chipped in 31 . . . Kyle Lowry had 34 to lead Philly . . . Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson made a brief appearance and was cheered loudly by fans . . . Former Sixers guard Willie Green was sitting courtside . . . Markieff and Marcus Morris both were no-shows. They had a commitment Saturday night at Kansas . . . Super-agent Leon Rose was seated at midcourt . . . The letters BBNS were on the back of both team's shirts, standing for Basketball Never Stops . . . Organizer Rahim Thompson said everything went smoothly. The delay, he said, was due to many players attending the Eagles-Giants game.

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