NBA All-Star Celebrity Game Players Who Can Really Ball

Grant Hughes@@gt_hughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistFebruary 15, 2013

NBA All-Star Celebrity Game Players Who Can Really Ball

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    Before the actual 2013 NBA All-Star Game this weekend, fans in Houston will be treated to the annual Celebrity All-Star Game on Friday, Feb. 15.

    According to, there'll be plenty of former NBA luminaries involved, including Dikembe Mutombo and his elbows, Bruce Bowen, Clyde Drexler and Sean Elliott. In addition, WNBA stars Tamika Catchings and Maya Moore will be there.

    Excluding those former and current professionals, though, there are also going to be a handful of amateur participants who have the skills to acquit themselves quite nicely on the court.

    Now, to be fair, some of the participating celebrities are downright terrible on the hardwood. But thankfully, many of the pint-sized wannabes who drag down the quality of the game won't be present this time around. And yes, I'm referring to you, Justin Bieber.

    The Biebs will be absent, but Josh Hutcherson (the stunningly short dude from The Hunger Games) will step right into those tiny shoes. Viewers are advised to procure earplugs as a defense against the avalanche of shrill, pre-teen screams he'll induce.

    Let's try to stay positive, though. We'll get to see the world's fastest human being, a Harvard grad with terrific passing touch and a feisty comedian who has the ability to ignite his team. This year's All-Star Celebrity Game is primed to feature more than a few players who can really ball.

The Pros

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    It's only fair to lump the former and current professional players together in one slide. Obviously, all of them can ball on a different level from the assembled celebrities.

    Don't be fooled by the retired status of Dikembe Mutombo, Clyde Drexler, Sean Elliott and Bruce Bowen. We need only consult Scottie Pippen's dominant 17-point effort in the 2011 game as evidence that "old" doesn't mean "washed-up."

    Of course, Tamika Catchings and Maya Moore are still in prime form, so they'll definitely be players to watch, too.

    Most importantly, it's critical that everyone involved in the game is particularly careful around Bowen. Anyone foolish enough to elevate in his general area risks ending up with a sprained ankle, thanks to Bowen's patented step-under move. He should be taking it easy in an exhibition game, but old habits die hard.

    Oh, and one more thing: Mutombo must be very happy to be involved this year. There will be lots of opportunities for blocked shots.

Kevin Hart

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    Kevin Hart is almost certain to embarrass himself in the celebrity game, but he'll be doing it on purpose.

    The diminutive (5'2") Hart's antics were among the highlights of last year's affair, and he's sure to try to top them this time around.

    The recipient of the 2012 MVP, Hart was recognized as much for his eight points as he was for his enjoyable post-ejection tirade.

    Behind the histrionics, though, Hart is actually a surprisingly good player. His height is a pretty big disadvantage, but he showed a nice handle and some touch around the rim last year.

    He also threw a nice lob to J. Cole, whose dunk was easily the most impressive moment of the 2012 game.

    If Hart can avoid an early ejection (an unlikely proposition), he has a chance to show some really solid skills.

    A few nifty alley-oops and some finger rolls would be nice, but let's be honest: All anybody wants to see Hart do is make a scene.


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    After playing a basketball star in Just Wright, rapper Common looks like he has really developed some game.

    He seems comfortable with the ball and really looks the part of a player. Whether coming off screens for jumpers or setting up his teammates with alley-oops, it's abundantly clear that Common has had some rigorous instruction in the fundamentals.

    His jumper's a little creaky, and he shoots it on the way down, but hey, we're not going to dissect the mechanics of a guy whose hoops training was for a role in a movie.

    Based on the clip, Common looks like he'll acquit himself quite nicely in this year's game. But if he goes for 40 points, there'll be a few suspicions that he recruited some extras from Hollywood to make him look good.

Ryen Russillo

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    We're working off speculation here, but it certainly sounds like ESPN radio host Ryen Russillo might be a dark-horse MVP candidate.

    Check the tape, people! This guy's motivated.

    He's out to prove the doubters about his game wrong, and he has put enough thought into the contest to break down his team's roster. Also, it's never a good idea to underestimate the power of shame.

    Russillo doesn't want to return to his gig at ESPN to face all of the "I told you so" criticisms of the professional athletes he talks to every day. That fear alone might be enough to inspire a great effort.

    And hey, even though the only shot we've seen him take involved a ball of paper and a trash can, he buried it. As far as we're concerned, he's shooting 100 percent from the field.

Usain Bolt

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    With Usain Bolt around, is every offensive possession for his team technically a fast break?

    Based on the video evidence, Bolt looks a little awkward with the ball in his hands. But he's 6'5", and it goes without saying that he's a phenomenal athlete. If he gets out on the break, everyone should be excited for the possibility of some highlight dunks.

    Remember, you can't spell "Jamaica" without "jam."

    Bolt will almost certainly take it easy during the game, as he has way too much at stake to risk injury by turning the jets up to full blast. But even at half speed, the other team had better keep an eye on him in transition.

    He's known for a good running game, after all.

Arne Duncan

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    U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has been taking celebrities to school for a couple of years now. A former player at Harvard who also played professionally in Australia, Duncan has flashed court vision and passing skills that simply don't belong in a celebrity game.

    Unfortunately, many of his dimes have gone to waste in recent years.

    Still, Duncan is basically a ringer as celebrities go. His skills are easily the most impressive of any nonprofessional involved, and it's probably a safe bet that he's the only guy in this game who makes a habit of playing pick-up ball at the White House.

    Besides, he'll be happy to get into a game where tough defense or an elbow doesn't result in him being tackled by five Secret Service agents.

    Look for him to do the most damage this year.

Dishonorable Mention: Trey Songz

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    Now that we've identified the celebrities who can get the job done on the court, it's time to shine the spotlight on one of this year's participants who has a pretty good chance of embarrassing himself. You know, just for fun.

    Sorry, Trey Songz, you're up.

    It's an excuse to laugh at Mr. Songz (he and I aren't on a first-name basis) as he blows a wide-open layup in the attached clip.

    This dude hasn't exactly distinguished himself on the court, and outside of making the other guys on our list look good by comparison, he's unlikely to contribute much.

    Perhaps a few layup "drillz" are in order, eh, Mr. Songz?