After the BEKO BBL had showcased the Allstar game in big 10,000 plus arenas in Cologne and Mannheim the last years, they decided to display the leagues best players in a smaller venue in Bonn in 2010. This turned out to be a big success as the Telekom dome was sold out and the atmosphere was as breathtaking as taking in a Boston Redsox-New York Yankees game at the legendary Fenway Park.
Why should the BEKO BBL continue to have the Allstar game in a huge complex like the SAP arena in Mannheim where one feels overwhelmed when looking around and seeing the magnitude of the arena and where 6,000-7,000 people make the arena look as lifeless as the Pontiac Dome in Detriot as Detroit Lions Football fans had to encounter a miserable 0-16 season in 2008. The Telekom Dome only had 6,000 spectators, but every inch was filled and the arena was about as loud as any as I have ever seen in the BEKO BBL.
“It was a good decision to move it to a smaller venue. It has been sold out for two weeks and I think that it is simply better for the players to play in front of a sold out crowd”, stressed German National coach Dirk Bauermann.
Being early and two hours before the start of a game is nothing new for a press man like me, but the annual BEKO BBL Allstar game is the one time in the year where I set foot in the arena at least six hours before the game. Ok some may call me crazy, but I always like to take in the atmosphere and just be in a basketball environment and just take it all in and enjoy. My game preparation for radio was pretty much set. I just had to check some Allstar stats, but player information was all set. I could use my time to mingle with fans, players, coaches, managers, and agents. The way basketball players usually have fun on the court, this was my time to have enjoyment seeing people and making new contacts.
The BEKO BBL Allstar day is always a great place to see acquaintances and friends from the German basketball world. The first guy I ran into was Paderborn assistant coach Artur Gacaev who is always smiling. He is often quiet so getting many words out of him is about as difficult as getting speech from Deutsche Bank Skyliner big man Greg Jenkins. He spoke a little about the current woes of the Paderborn Baskets, but had little answers as too how the club would climb out of the BBL cellar. He had a big glow in his eyes about the NBBL game where he was on the bench assisting Henrik Rödl.
After a while, I spotted an always very popular interview guest with German National coach Dirk Bauermann. Since he stepped down from coaching The Brose Baskets Bamberg last season, he has more time to concentrate on the German National team. His biggest task is watching his players as well as keeping an eye on new potential candidates. He looked very relaxed, but also had a small look of worry concerning Lucca Staiger who had left Iowa State to return home. He quickly signed with Alba Berlin. Bauermann also knew why the young German left the States to return home:
“It was a very difficult step to leave the team in the middle of the season. I had a very long talk with him and it was a hard decision for him. I know how hard this decision was, because he has no ego, but is a team player. The last year was difficult, because he had a smaller role on offense just being a shooter. The fact that he was only being used like this hurt him so much which was a reason for him leaving. He had less playing time and he was being punished just for being a shooter. The only plays set up for him were for him to get open shots and nothing else”, added Dirk Bauermann.
An annoying occurrence was being interrupted about every five seconds as someone came by and shaked the hand of Bauermann. All in all, Bauerman has been very pleased about the first half of the BEKO BBL season.
At 15:35, the doors were opened and the fans pilled in to come see their favourite players. I continued to greet people that I knew. There were very many press speakers present like from BG Goettingen, New Yorker Phantoms Braunschweig, and The Artland Dragons who are always so nice to grant me press passes at away games. I also saw people like Marco Baldi (Alba Berlin), Gunnar Wöbke and Kamil Novak (Deutsche Bank Skyliners), Stephan Clauss (DBB), Marc Franz (BG Goettingen), Thomas Stoll and Mike Taylor (Ratiopharm Ulm), Doug Spradley (Bremerhaven Eisbaeren), Chris Copeland (TBB Trier), Jason Boone and John Little (from BG Goettingen), Michael Jordan and Quentin Pryor( from Phoenix Hagen), Kevin Johnson(Giessen 46ers) as well as Alex King and Artur Kolodiezski from The Telekom Baskets Bonn.
I also did something that I have never done before at least in Germany and that was to stand in line at the autograph signing. When I was a kid, my hobby was getting autographes from Baseball, Basketball and Hockey players in the States. I guess I had missed it and forgotten what it was like and it made me feel like a kid again. I knew most of the players anyway so seeing their surprised looks was just as funny. I never thought I would ever ask for a Derrick Allen autograph but I did. It also must be a big moment for little kids to stand in front of their idols face to face. I sure remember what it felt like seeing the big time players and can definitely relate to that.
Then the NBBL game took place which I missed most of because of an interview I was conducting with Anatoly Kashirov of MBC. The South won the game in a low scoring affair. It was no surprise that Nils Giffey led all scorers with 22 points in a losing cause. The 18 year old 200cm shooting guard is one of Germanys biggest talents from the year 1991 and it will be interesting to see how his development matures.
Now it was time for The three point shooting match and the Slam Dunk contest. I still had the nearly flawless shooting night of Taylor Rochestie in my mind in the 90-78 BG Goettingen win against The Deutsche Bank Skyliners where he scored 22 points(9/14) and dished out nine assists, so he was clearly one of my favorites to win the title. It was really amazing how he showed no fear of dropping the most difficult shots against Frankfurt. It didn´t matter if a Robertson or Reese was in his face, it might as well have been Dwayne Wade, because he had this look in his eyes that he would make the shots. He also hurt Alba Berlin with his hot in your face shooting in a 86-82 win. He wasted no time getting 21 points in his first try and 17 points in the final. He got a little resistance from Dane Watts, Derek Raivio and Toby Bailey, but really he was in a league of his own. I would love to see him go at it against Jason Kapano of the Philadelphia 76ers. He might not be able to rattle a Larry Bird in his prime, but surely now could get some eye brows to be raised by his performance from the basketball legend from French Lick. A cute moment was seeing the huge enjoyment of BG Goettingen manager Marc Franz as he was showing the fist of success and taking fotos of Rochestie as it brought back memories to when Karl Heinz Becker was taking pictures of his son Boris Becker as he had just won Wimbeldon in 1985 at the age of 17.
Then came the slam dunk contest which is probably the most annoying time for the eyes for some folks with all the flashes going off in the arena. This years competition had some interesting players like Sefton Barrett of the Paderborn Baskets that had won the slam dunk contest at the 2009 Polish Allstar contest. Ade Dangunduro has shown his athletic skills with MBC all season long and Quantez Robertson might only be 190cm, but doesn´t shy away from posting up against a guy 5 centimeters taller or flying through the zone against Boumtje Boumtje. Everyone was expecting something brilliant from 6he Frankfurt guard. However did anyone have Jamal Shuler on the winning ballot? I sure didn´t, but no disrespect to the guard from TBB Trier, but he stole the show at the end from Skyliner Quantez Robertson.
Even though Robertson gave a nice dunk at the end, it was Shuler who not only had produced three consistent dunks, but also added difficulty and flair to his dunks which resulted in an average of 30. Telekom Baskets Bonn center John Bowler might not be the fastest player, but he must have had ants in his pants, because he jumped up from his seat so quickly after the last dunk of Shuler. One instantly knew after his last dunk that he had won, because the arena rocked like no other dunk before and everyone was standing including the judging panel of Henrik Rödl, Stephan Baeck and John Bowler.
One must not forget that Shuler had a special partner in crime with teammate Derek Raivio who helped him with his head and feet as Shuler retrieved the ball in the air making unforgettable dunks. Shuler had won fair and square even if Robertson had given a fine effort. I hope Shuler invited Raivio to dinner for his efforts?
The last and real highlight of the 2010 BEKO BBL Allstar game was the 40 minute game. Something very interesting to see was Jan Pommer sitting next to the BEKO Boss and next to him Skyliner coach Murat Didin. It seems like whereever the BEKO Boss is, not fra behind is Murat Didin who was responsible for getting the sponsor on board in the BBL. The South were the underdog and hadn´t won since 2005. It was your typical Allstar game where the players entertain the fans with offense and put defense on the back burner. The game was pretty much even in the first half as the North had a slim 53-50 lead, but in the second half the south took over built a slim lead which grew to 10 plus points and the North could never recover again. The high light for me was calling my fifth Allstar game for radio and I had had the fortune of having help from the last three dunk contestants Jimmie Hunt, Keith Simmons and Quantez Robertson. One could really feel how much fun Robertson had and even stated that he might want to return someday to help. He wasn´t too sad about coming in second place in the Slam Dunk contest and really enjoyed the performance of his teammate Derrick Allen who finished with 11 points and five rebounds.
Chris Ensminger won the MVP award which was voted on by the fans. He had his age and home court as an advantage in winning the award. If one studied the stats closely then he deserved the award even if Michael King and George Evans had strong games. At the age of 36, Ensminger won’t have many more chances, but he still plays with a lot of heart and as if he was 28. He finished with 16 points, nine rebounds and three assists in 20 minutes. He even unleashed a floater which would of even given Mr. floater Chris Paul goose bumps.
One has to commend George Evans of TBB Trier who had 16 points(8/8) in 16 minutes. I never saw him so dominant inside, but an Allstar game is a bit more lenient to the body than a regular BEKO BBL game. The north was without Julius Jenkins and Chris Oliver which hurt, but overall it seemed like the south wanted it a bit more. Top scorer was Jeff Gibbs with 16 points. When a power forward leads the team with 6 assists then one has to ask what was up with the regular playmaking from Steffen Hamann and Heiko Schaffartzik. Rickey Paulding and Je’Kel Foster had 23 points and showed flashes of brilliance, but in this game, they were just two stars out of 21 stars.
All in all, the 2010 BEKO BBL Allstar game was a big success. It was staged in the right sized arena, the fans were entertained all throughout. The fans had some chances to get away from basketball for just a moment to see the pretty Telekom Baskets Bonn dance team and see the interesting team mascots that are always fun to watch. Fabius and little Fabi of the Giessen 46ers stole the show as they were the highlight of the mascots. One spectacular thing that Fabius did was walk on a moving big ball that is not easy to do. The half time show by the Face Team was another huge highlight as they entertained the 6,000 fans with difficult dunks using a trampoline and please don’t try this in a deserted gym. One can only hope that the BEKO BBL continues to showcase the Allstar game in middle sized arenas, because the atmosphere definitely can make a difference in how much a fan can really enjoy an event.
South vs. North (50:92) 102:92