It was the greatest 8-to-6 basketball game you’ll ever see.
Andre Emmett, formerly of the Memphis Grizzlies and Bobby Knight’s Texas Tech program (where he is the all-time leading scorer), was going 1-on-1 with Vili Morton, a relative unknown who played college ball at California-Riverside and now manages basketball training programs at 24 Hour Fitness gyms in the Bay Area. On paper it shouldn’t have been close.
And yet at the end of their furious display of power dunks, post-ups, pick-pockets and pro moves — completed in less time than it takes to cook a grilled cheese sandwich — the crowd was invested, and the man with the most points on the scoreboard was declared the loser.
Emmett was up 8-6 late in overtime when he committed his fifth foul and was disqualified. I tried to get his post-game reaction, and he basically told me to get lost.
That’s how it was at the 2011 Red Bull King of the Rock tournament final: Unpredictable, unforgiving, often unbridled, sometimes even unprecedented.
Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, a.k.a. “The Rock,” was the setting on Saturday night as 64 players came from all corners of the world to the infamous island in the San Francisco Bay to compete in the 1-on-1 single-elimination tournament. At stake was a $10,000 prize for the last man standing, a ring and a trophy, plus bragging rights as the best 1-on-1 ballplayer on Earth who isn’t facing a labor lockout.
With a five-minute time limit for each game and four courts being used simultaneously, the field was quickly cut from 64 believers to 16 survivors, and eventually down to the final four.