MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Z-Bo lights up local YMCA in pool basketball game.
The Memphis Grizzlies starting PF Zach Randolph poured in eighty-nine points this Sunday afternoon at the downtown YMCA pool on Madison Avenue, hitting a series of dazzling fadeaways, tip-ins and put-backs, and finishing with ease around the rim despite a mob of eight to twelve year-olds hanging from his arms and splashing him in the face.
I caught up with the burly grit-and-grind bruiser following his dominating performance as he toweled off on his way to the steam room.
“Everybody’s got an off-season routine to keep themselves in shape during the summer. Carmelo Anthony likes to box, Kevin Durant likes to take whimsical bike rides along the rustic Oklahoma countryside, and I like to annihilate pre-adolescent competition in games of aquatic hoops” said the 260-pound NBA power forward.
A hush washed over the community pool as the towering six-foot nine-inch Michigan St. alum walked through the double-wide doors wearing nothing but a teal Speedo and a yellow swim cap. Z-Bo casually tossed his sun-washed Power Rangers beach towel onto the stainless steel bleachers and cannon-balled into the deep-end, sending a wave of 75-degree pool water into a cluster of old ladies, soaking their James Patterson paperbacks. Heeding his warning, the old-timers scampered up the bleachers to make room for the already amassing crowd of on-lookers. By the time Z-Bo swam up to his team for pre-game shoot-around, kids and grown-ups alike lined the perimeter of the pool and conversation buzzed with anticipation.
“I’ve been watching Randolph play pool basketball ever since he moved to Memphis four years ago,” said twelve-year-old Jay Whittlestien between bites of his cherry sno-cone. “He’s got great footwork in the post, soft hands, and weighs over a hundred pounds more than anyone else in the pool. He’s virtually unstoppable.”
Indeed, the opposing team of pre-adolescent children could find no answer to Randolph’s size and skill despite their physical play and non-regulation 8-person team. Alongside his one teammate and point guard Freddie Dayton, Z-Bo bruised his way to nearly ninety points, jab-stepping, spinning, and hooking buckets over quadruple and quintuple-teams and managing to pull down fifty-eight offensive rebounds over the course of the game. The kids did everything they could in the absence of officials to referee the game, jumping on his back, slapping his wrists, and splashing Z-Bo in the eyes mid-shot. Neither their physical defense nor the water could keep Randolph from catching fire in the second half, as he bounced defenders off his body and finished with his left hand in ten consecutive post-ups. “We thought we stood a chance with Robert's cousin visiting from Houston,” said team captain and point guard Charlie Maclin. “He’s like almost five and a half feet tall, and did an admirable job of guarding the big fella until he got elbowed in the nose and had to leave the pool on account of all the blood.”
Randolph went on a tear down the stretch, connecting on several running-hooks and floaters before punctuating his performance with a buzzer-beating rainbow three, causing the surely fire-code-breaking number of on-lookers to jump into the pool and mob the Grizzlies All-Star.
When asked about his iconic performance, Randolph said: “It feels great, man. It just feels great. I got my bounce going and feel like my old self again.”
I reached out to John Hollinger after the game to ask if he heard about what happened at the YMCA pool. “What? You think I live under a rock? Of course I’ve heard about it. It’s all twitter can talk about at the moment,” said Hollinger over the phone. “His performance easily ranks up there with the greatest off-season pickup performances ever witnessed. It totally eclipses Kevin Durant's 66 points at Rucker Park two years ago. We’re very excited to see Zach bring this level of play back to the hardwood for a title run next season.”