Bucs WR Michael Clayton helped lead the Red team to victory in Saturday's Celebrity Hoops Jam
You couldn't script the ending any better.
The final act, on the other hand, could be a little tighter.
Early Saturday evening, more than two fun-filled hours after the Michael Clayton Celebrity Hoops Jam tipped off at the St. Pete Times Forum, Michael Clayton himself won the game with a three-point shot from the top of the key with no time left on the clock.
It was a fitting end to an event designed to raise funds for the Michael Clayton Generation Next Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that supports a variety of charities in the Tampa Bay area as well as in Clayton's hometown of Baton Rouge. The Foundation is currently focusing its efforts on two charities, the Ronald McDonald Mobile Care unit, which travels throughout the community bringing medical care to those who need it, and the Tampa Bay Pediatric Cancer Center. The Foundation also intends to donate a portion of the funds raised to the LSU Hurricane Katrina Fund.
So Clayton's three-point swish was a fitting end to the event, yes, but not necessarily a dramatic one.
The clock was frozen for Clayton's last shot because this was an impromptu three-point contest against Tampa Bay Buccaneers teammate Cadillac Williams after every other conceivable attempt to decide a Hoops Jam winner had failed. It was Clayton's own version of the Italy-France World Cup shootout.
The event itself was a rousing success, with thousands of Bucs and basketball fans packing the Forum for a shot to see dozens of celebrities hoop it up. The core of both team's rosters was made up of Clayton's Buccaneer teammates, including Williams, Juran Bolden, Larry Brackins, J.R. Russell, Chris Simms, Alex Smith, Greg Spires and Paris Warren. Clayton also lured a handful of other NFL players to town, including Warrick Dunn, Darren Howard, Corey Ivy, Shaun King, Marcus Spears, Dwight Smith and Peter Warrick and sprinkled in such additional VIPs as actresses Marta McGonagle and Erika Ringor, ESPN personality Jay Crawford and even NBA player Ronald Dupree. Not surprisingly, Clayton put Dupree on his own team.
The basketball itself wasn't flawless, but it was always entertaining, a mixture of individual style and surprising hustle. Williams, for instance, was a waterbug on the floor, preferring press defense and quick drives to the basket when he was on the floor. In warmups, the NFL's reigning Rookie of the Year dunked with ease, but on his one breakaway chance in the game, the ball rolled up his arm as he started to jump, killing the attempt at a jam. He did make several three-point shots and a collection of nice passes.
Clayton's shootout victory over Williams gave the Red team victory over the Black, but it didn't make the game's presenter feel much better about his own performance.
"I struggled today," said Clayton with a laugh. "I so struggled today. I got it when it counted, but that's the worst basketball I've played in years. I even brought everybody on the court to make it more exciting."
Truly, it wasn't his day on the scorecard. In fact, Clayton high-fived the Red bench in the fourth quarter when he finally got a shot to fall. But there he was at the end, hoisting up the winning shot. How did we get to that point? Let us count the ways.
A Spears-to-Dupree alley-oop helped the Black team take a two-point lead in the closing minutes of regulation, but Warrick's drive to the basket tied the game at 96-96 with less than a minute to play. Black pulled into a four-corners attack for the last 30 seconds in order to take the last shot, but the plan backfired when nobody on the court seemed willing to heave up the critical attempt. A desperation shot failed to fall and the game went to overtime.
This, at least, was relatively routine. The two teams played a five-minute extra period, and the score was tied at 105 each with 23 seconds to play. When the red team stole the ball with 23 seconds to play, Coach Anthony McFarland called a timeout and set up an isolation play for Clayton. Unfortunately, Warrick's man defense on Clayton was too tight and the Buc receiver never got off a shot.
With the score still tied, the combatants decided on a one-minute overtime with – get this – every player on both teams on the floor. The resulting scrum included several floor-length passes and an impressive drive by Clayton that ended in a layup just rimming out. His teammate, Spears, appeared to give the win to Red with a thunderous dunk, but former Bucs receiver Lamar Thomas made an improbable runner at the buzzer to tie the game again, with the ball bouncing dramatically on the back rim long enough for Thomas to reach midcourt before it went through.
What's next? Glad you asked. A 30-second OT period with everybody on the floor. This time, Hall scored on a drive off the midcourt tip-off, which appeared to be the winning points. However, Russell was fouled with four seconds left on the other end, sending him to the line with a chance to shoot two and tie the game. At this point, it was no surprise when Russell calmly nailed both shots, once again preserving the tie.
Quickly eschewing the idea of a 15-second overtime, Clayton and event organizers decided on the shootout format, which eventually led to his winning shot. Williams held his own in the shootout, however, with all of the game's participants gathered in a semicircle around the competitors.
Of course, the final result was less important than the process. Not only did the event raise valuable funds for worthy causes, it also gave the Bay area public an idea of the basketball skills possessed by their gridiron stars. Overall, there was a lot of inventive passing and some very impressive work around the hoop. With the possible exceptions of Dupree, Dwight Smith and Spears, there was a general lack of outside marksmanship. Smith, the former Buccaneer and current New Orleans Saint, had a big impact on the game with his three-point shooting at the end of regulation and the first overtime.
A few other snap judgments:
- Juran Bolden can sky. Bolden had at least five dunks during the course of the game, though it should be mentioned that he was pretty blatantly cherry-picking on several occasions. Bolden also missed several dunk attempts, though even those moments were entertaining. Said the athletic Bucs cornerback: "I haven't played ball in a couple of years, so I was rusty. My knees were bothering me…nah, I'm just kidding. I just haven't played in awhile." * Chris Simms can ball. Probably the only player on the court with his shirt tucked in, Simms played the point for red in the early going and obviously has a strong handle. He got one of the biggest cheers of the night when he drove the basket from the key, freezing his defender with a fake and laying up over another man. * The Cowboys have a baller in their midst. Second-year defensive end Marcus Spears can play. He might not have the height for the NBA, but he may have been the best all-around player on the floor (non-NBA division). Spears looked like a Robert Traylor type, thick but athletic, and he even nailed several threes.
Young Buc receivers Russell and Warren played well, too, and the Buccaneers Cheerleaders appeared to be in midseason form with their performances after the first and third quarters. Alex Smith showed some nice moves around the basket. Red Coach McFarland used his timeouts judiciously and pushed the right buttons at the right time.
Of course, the specifics of who played well and who got the shots to fall were relatively unimportant in the end. The Michael Clayton Celebrity Hoops Jam was a swish in terms of its primary goals, entertaining the crowd and raising funds for worthy charities
"It was for a great cause, and everybody had fun," said Clayton.