Where else can you see a Common-Lieberman duel but in the Celebrity Shootout?
(Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images)

Although the Lakers will be rolling into town to take on the Suns this Friday, the Suns already brought L.A. to Phoenix this past weekend. Hollywood descended upon US Airways Center this past weekend when celebrities traded in the red carpet for the hardwood in the 9th Annual Jack in the Box Celebrity Shootout.

The celebs were divided into two teams, with Team White being coached by Suns All-Star forward Amar’e Stoudemire and Team Orange being coached by Suns swingman Jared Dudley. Proceeds from the event went to Phoenix Suns Charities and Suns Nite Hoops.

Team Orange, featured actor Michael Clarke Duncan, Stomp the Yard’s Columbus Short, Malcolm in the Middle’s Frankie Muniz and actor Jamie Kennedy. Team White was led by Grammy Award-winner Common, Friday Night Light’s Michael B. Jordan, soap star Josh Morrow and Don’t Mess With the Zohan’s Nick Swardson.

The stars were introduced the way the Suns are for player introductions, with all of the players having their credits announced by in-arena-MC Cedric Ceballos. Tip-off pretty much signaled the final moment of any seriousness being displayed.

Ceballos playfully heckled the celebrities throughout the action, doing his best Michael Clarke Duncan impersonation and telling Michael B. Jordan that he should’ve dunked his layup “with a name like that.” At one point in the game, Jamie Kennedy grabbed the mic from Ceballos and announced to the crowd that fatigue had gotten the best of him and that he “was about to throw up.”

That was only in the first half.

The game was tight throughout, although Team Orange seemed to have the advantage in the paint with Clarke Duncan roaming around down low. After running out of gas two years ago in this event, the Green Mile star vowed to put himself through extensive cardio-vascular training in preparation for this year’s contest.

The 6-5 Academy Award-nominee claimed to have trained by running the Hollywood Hills with 75 lbs. of weights on his back. And it all seemed to pay off… for at least the first quarter. However, one of the greatest females ever to play the game, Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman, kept Team Orange close by using her “Lady Magic-like” court vision to feed cutters slicing to the basket.

Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry, who seemed to have brought his entire family to the game for a pleasant day out, revealed his true motivation for his attendance in the first period when he began jeering Stoudemire and Dudley with overly-sarcastic shouts of “fire the coach” and “draw up a play!”

When Gentry was reached for comment the next day, the veteran coach reiterated his point, “They should keep their day job. I think they’re much better at being coached than coaching. But I give Amar’e props for having the best assistant coach I’ve ever seen though.”

Gentry was referring to pop star Ciara, who due to her plane being delayed, showed up early in the second half to a nice round of applause. It wasn’t quite as dramatic as Willis Reed entering Madison Square Garden’s court during the 1970 Finals, but it certainly energized the arena.

Especially, the male contingent.

“Best part of the day was Ciara coming out,” Dudley remembered fondly. “She had the outfit of the day and she was Coach of the Year.”

Atypical praise from an opposing coach, but the leather pants-wearing R&B siren was certainly well-deserving of it. So much so, that Gentry’s 8 year-old son even commented.

“My wife put on some leather pants the other day and my wife asked my son what he thought and he said, ‘Mom, those are out of style,’” Gentry recounted. “So yesterday my wife said to him, ‘Ciara has got on leather pants, I thought you said those are out of style.’ And he said, ‘Not on her mom.’”

After some sizzling performances from the Suns Dancers and the Verve Sol Patrol, the second half continued with Team White taking control. The heckling from his coach wore on Stoudemire, who decided to map out some strategies on the whiteboard.

“The play was fist-up short,” STAT explained. “We ran it to perfection and the campaign started for Common to be MVP right there.”

Common, who said that his game most resembled New Orleans guard Chris Paul’s, took over during winning time with his slashing drives to the basket and clever dishes. The hip-hop artist shined bright, with his only blemish of the day being a loss to Valley resident Frankie Muniz in a skills competition during a second-half break.

Although he was the opposing team’s coach, Dudley was quite complimentary of Common.

“Nancy had the most game, but I was most impressed with Common,” the 6-7 forward decreed. “He looked athletic out there. He was the best defender.”

Despite his wits on the court as a player, Dudley’s mental lapses as a coach may have led to his team’s undoing. Dudley flagrantly miscalculated his big man’s level of fitness, as those in attendance watched poor Michael Clarke Duncan run out of mojo down the stretch.

“He said he had done some conditioning, but we didn’t see it out there,” the Boston College alum remarked wryly. “I was trying to monitor his minutes like Shaq, but it didn’t work out.”

Perhaps the best moment of the afternoon didn’t even occur during game action. During a timeout segment called “Dancing With the Stars,” Gentry’s 8 year-old son, Jack, got the crowd’s juices flowing.

The segment consisted of four contestants having 30 seconds to dance off again each other. Gentry’s son brought the house down by pulling off an impressive robot and then besting it with his Michael Jackson-like moonwalk.

“He got that from his mom, not from me,” Coach Gentry boasted. “He messes around a little, but I never thought that he would get out there in front of the crowd and do it. He didn’t seem to be intimidated at all.

“We laughed our butt off. I didn’t think he had it in him.”

Not that it mattered, but Team Orange came away with the victory and Common took home the MVP trophy. The day was best summed up by Team White’s co-Head Coach Amar’e Stoudemire.

“I had a great time,” STAT said. “It’s always good to give back to the community and I hope we do it again next year.”

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