Asian All-Stars Claim Upset Win Over NBA Legends in Kuala Lumpur
It was a smooth-sailing start but a rocky finish for the guests from the Pro Basketball Alumni Association (PBAA) team as they eventually crashed to the MJ Life Asian All-Stars with a narrow and exciting 84 – 82 loss at the Putra Stadium in Bukit Jalil, Kuala Lumpur. The talent of the visitors was evident, but the youth, teamwork and desire to claim some famous scalps on the part of the Asian squad fuelled a victory that they will not soon forget. The ‘home’ side featured a host of stars from all over the continent and even beyond, including 2.29m tall Jaber Rouzbahani from Iran and a couple of KL Dragons in B. Guganeswaran, better known as Guga within the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL), and Kuek Tian Yuan. The PBAA team consisted of former NBA stars such as four-time All-Star Latrell Sprewell, scoring machines Jerry Stackhouse and Michael Finley, defensive specialist Doug Christie and fan favourite Dennis Rodman, who made his grand appearance at the game wearing outlandish face paint, in the spirit of Halloween. Rounding up the squad were a few streetball legends such as “Circus”, “The 8th Wonder”, “The Assassin”, and the other crowd favourite, Guy Dupuy, touted as the best dunker in the world. The game started off very well for the PBAA team as Stackhouse and Finley took turns to show off their offensive repertoire, making the game look easy through a variety of moves. The Asian All-Stars looked hesitant as they struggled to adjust to each other’s playing style, but managed to keep the game within reach through some sharp shooting from Taiwan’s Yang Yu Ming and the athleticism and hustle of Folarin Deola D’Brown from Nigeria, going down 30 – 24 at the end of the first period. In the second quarter, complacency seemed to set in for the PBAA stars as they appeared content to take outside shots, while the Asian All-Stars chipped away at the lead with some determined play. PBAA CEO Charles Smith, formerly of the Knicks, Clippers and Spurs, took to the floor as well, something that he was reluctant to do in the last year’s edition of the game. The Asian team managed to close the lead to just 3 points at the intermission, and it could have been even closer if not for countless turnovers by New Zealand’s Cameron Stuart, who looked a little too eager to impress as he tried to pull off a series of moves seemingly beyond his capabilities. Half-time had been highly anticipated since the start of the game, due to the participation of “Frequent Flyer” Dupuy from France in the dunk contest. Victory was but a formality by the time his turn came around, as Stuart and “The Assassin” each punched home a couple of solid but ultimately unspectacular dunks. Dupuy, standing at 193cm, took things to another level as he effortlessly completed a between the legs dunk while jumping over three spectators. The crowd screamed for an encore, and Dupuy obliged, putting the ball around his back before slamming it home as everyone in the arena went crazy. Amidst the cheers, Rouzbahani cheekily tried to silence the crowd by showing off a dunk that even the winner would have trouble completing, as he picked the ball up under the basket and dunked it with one hand – while standing flat-footed on the ground! Following the exciting half-time show, the Asian team took the chance to punish a lacklustre showing by the American players as they raced out to a double-digit lead. Yang continued bombing away from the perimeter and Guga hyped up the home crowd with some confident play, while the PBAA team faltered, with the streetball players appearing lost on defensive rotations, and the ex-NBA stars standing around watching the ball on offense. Rodman was just about the only PBAA player who put up a good show in the third period, but through his antics rather than his play, as he poked fun at everyone and everything from the referees to Rouzbahani’s free throw shooting. Of course, this was not enough to keep his team in the game as they went down 64 – 51 when the quarter drew to a close. The final period saw little urgency from the PBAA side as they continued to clown around, at least until the final few minutes when the NBA players stepped back onto the court. Pride appeared to drive them as they sought to steal victory back from the lesser lights on the opposing squad, with Doug Christie in particular performing spectacularly on defense. Christie forced turnover after turnover with his quick hands and feet as he jumped into passing lanes, stripped the Asian point guards clean, and forced his opponents into making amateurish mistakes with his relentless pressure defense. The game had looked out of reach with only a few minutes left, but with three consecutive steals from the former Kings shooting guard in less than 30 seconds, the PBAA team stormed back in with a legitimate shot at the win. Unfortunately for them, a couple of momentary lapses in defense and some missed shots ruined the chance for a stunning comeback win, and the Asian side took home the famous upset. With such an entertaining finish to the game, the crowd will no doubt be looking forward to next year’s game!