Granderson's shootout a success
Fan-friendly event raises money for Grand Kids Foundation
LAKE ORION, Mich. -- Curtis Granderson isn't one of those athletes who looks back and believes he could be playing another sport for a living. He's quite happy with his job as Detroit Tigers center fielder, thank you.
Still, if he's going to hit the basketball court, he wants to have a good time. And even though he was a referee, rather than a player, in his Celebrity Shootout, he was going to have fun with it. He wasn't going to be whistle-happy, but he was going to be happy about blowing the whistle.
So when Cleveland Browns All-Pro wide receiver Braylon Edwards lost the handle on one of his acrobatic dunk attempts, a wide-open breakaway after slamming one just seconds earlier, Granderson was going to let him hear about it. The phantom whistle was just the start.
"Somebody must have fouled you," Granderson said with a smile as he looked around, offering it as the only explanation how he could've lost the ball.
It was that kind of day all-around -- for Granderson, the athletes and celebrities who took a weekend out of their schedule, and the fans, who braved the winter storm to make it out to Lake Orion High School. Granderson does a lot in the Detroit area over the course of the year, but this is one of those events in which he also gets plenty back.
"It's amazing," Granderson said as he surveyed the crowded stands from courtside. "Kid Rock, Braylon Edwards, they have a million other things that they could be doing. Rashad Evans just won a championship fight a couple weeks ago and is in the middle of training, but decided to come up here for this day. Dana Jacobson's on ESPN every day. Miss America [Kirsten Haglund] has to fly out tomorrow to do a commitment. It's great that they all ended up coming out. I appreciate it. I've thanked them a million times. I probably can't thank them enough."
For many of them, it's a pleasure, particularly for Edwards.
Like Granderson, Edwards has a pretty good day job as an NFL wide receiver, but he still carries a love for basketball that dates back to his lone season of high school hoops while growing up in Detroit before he gave it up to focus on football. When Edwards takes the court, he likes to put on a show. His display of high-flying dunks in Granderson's event last year earned him the nickname "MVP."
As he threw down one dunk after another Saturday, the nickname was being thrown around frequently. He wasn't trying to show up anyone, but he wanted to entertain. So Edwards and Jamal Nelson, otherwise known as "Springs" on the And1 Mixtape Tour frequently seen on ESPN in the summer, put on their exhibition and put some smiles on the faces in the crowd, from baseline drives to breakaway runs to a couple of powerful flushes Edwards put on a pair of missed shots.
"I just have fun, man," Edwards said afterward. "I'm just glad everybody came out and had a good time and had fun. That's all it's really about. It's for a good cause, the Grand Kids Foundation."
Saturday was a very good day for the foundation, as was the weekend in general. Between the Shootout and a dinner event on Friday evening, the two-day swing was expected to raise enough money to help the foundation start a college scholarship program, in addition to its usual work helping inner-city schools in Michigan.
"It's great to see the basketball guys, the Lions guys, the University of Michigan, the Tigers, the different programs in the city all come together," said Drew Henson, the former Michigan and current Detroit Lions quarterback who teamed up with fellow ex-Wolverines Edwards, David Terrell and Desmond Howard and former coach Lloyd Carr. "And Curtis is a great spokesman, a great role model. I think most everyone who knows him would do anything they could to come out on a weekend like this."
The game wasn't simply about watching former athletes and their hoop dreams. At many points, it felt like a good-natured pickup game. Jacobson and former Lions lineman Lomas Brown, a regular on the ESPN First Take show that Jacobson co-hosts, were teammates in a segment filmed for the show. Granderson gave Project Runway designer Joe Faris extra foul shots and a layup attempt to get on the scoreboard after some frustrating misses.
Granderson and Tigers teammate Marcus Thames, who served as a coach for the game, came out at halftime and teamed up with two lucky fans in a shootout competition to try to settle who is the better shooter.
But the winning non-athlete surely was Kid Rock, the Detroit-based Grammy Award-nominated performer who drew some of the loudest applause of the night. His set shot from around the top of the key earned the game's opening points, but it was a pair of free throws at the line with time nearly expired that put the pressure on.
He made both to tie the game and send the outcome to a dunk contest between Edwards and Nelson, with crowd response deciding the winner. Edwards threw down a pair of impressive dunks, but he couldn't compare with the professional.
That was fine with him. He was having fun.
"It's a good time to be out there," Edwards said. "Curtis does a lot for the community. It's good to be a part of it."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.