All this article does is list him as playing.
WHERE THE LEGENDS PLAY ON
Fun and games
Beyond the emcee, music and crowds, NBA pros and top amateurs put on a show at Fonde Recreation Center that's hard to beat
By MICHAEL MURPHY
Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle
• Admission to all games at Fonde Recreation Center, which usually features a couple of NBA players along with college and other local talent, is free.
• When: The league plays Monday and Wednesday nights, with games at 6, 7:15 and 8:30 p.m. The championship game is Aug. 17.
• Where: 110 Sabine St. in Houston. Call 832-524-3100 or check out procityhouston.com for more information.
THE PLACE TO BE SEEN
It's opening night at the Nike Pro City Houston Pro-Am at Fonde Recreation Center and Moochie Norris is feeling it. And the discerning fans, who demand nothing less than a player's best, are grooving right along with him.
Norris — yeah, the same Moochie Norris who would need a pardon from the governor to get off the Rockets' bench — is in the flow, pulling up off the dribble for can't-miss 3-pointers, snaking through the lane for layups and dazzling the crowd — and defenders — with twitching, ankle-straining moves.
There was a time when the only thing people noticed about Norris was his hair, which was a blown-out, teased, stretched-to-the-limit mushroom cloud that no headband could hope to contain.
The hair is gone, and now fans are forced to take notice of Norris' game. On a night when NBA types like Nick Van Exel, Mike James, Damon Stoudamire, Jonathan Bender, James Posey and Ansu Sesay — along with local playground stars like Dwayne "The Legend" Rogers, Myron "The Show" Allen and Trey Moore — are sharing the court, Norris is easily the best player on the floor.
At least on this night he is.
Norris is like the classically trained musician who steals away to jam at a late-night jazz club for the opportunity to play in front of fans who truly understand his art.
With each shot that rips the net, the emcee booms "Moooooochieeeeeee!" into his mic, and the appreciative — and apparently hard-to-please — fans start shouting for more. Norris obliges. When the night ends, he has made 14 of his 16 shots with one of those misses a three-quarters-court heave at the end of the third period. Norris leads the way with an effortless 28 points as his Fonde All-Stars crush Van Exel's Hustlers 104-86.
Fonde's sweat-soaked humidity is nowhere near the antiseptic glitz of the Toyota Center, but Norris is happy with his performance.
After all, as Moses Malone once said, "You ain't done it 'till you've done it at Fonde."
This is what playing at Fonde is all about: breaking free and putting on a show.
Norris has the fans pounding their hands together and stomping the simple wooden bleachers in amazement, pretty much the same way they did for Calvin Murphy and Robert Reid in the 1970s, Malone and Hakeem Olajuwon in the '80s and Kenny Smith and Vernon Maxwell in the '90s.
"Freedom is the biggest thing here," Norris said. "We're playing more in a structured system during the season, but the thing about playing these street ballers in your free time is that you get to work on your individual skills and one-on-one moves.
"That's great. But out here we all know that when the game is on the line, we're going to work it for a good shot as opposed to early in the game, when we're pulling everything out trying to get the crowd involved."
The beauty of the Pro City scene is that players such as Rogers, who graduated from Kashmere 20 years ago, are given an opportunity to rub shoulders — and trade elbows — with established NBA players and even an occasional superstar.
"When the pros come in here, I like to let them know that some of the best never made it to the league," said Rogers, who last year led the league in scoring and teamed with Van Exel to lead the Hustlers to the championship. "When they walk on this floor, my thing is that they put on their shoes just like I put on my shoes, so it's time to play."
Survival and revival
Just a few years ago Fonde basketball, at least at the Pro-Am level, was on the verge of dying.
Grizzlies forward James Posey adds his autograph to the T-shirt of 12-year-old Bavante Songs.
This is the chrysalis where Olajuwon became "The Dream," but by the late '90s most of the NBA players had pretty much abandoned the fabled courts in favor of the Westside Tennis Club, where the Rockets had a sparkling practice facility.
But Pro City moved in three years ago and reorganized the Pro-Am, and their first order of business was putting the pros back on the court.
"We kind of put our stamp on it," said Kevin Allen, who along with former TSU great Kevin Granger, runs the league. "We got out there and hit the pavement and got the (NBA players) back involved. And they like it — they like the crowd and the atmosphere. And we'd like to thank the people for coming out and supporting us because the crowd plays a big part.
"But you've got (NBA players) calling their teammates and saying, 'Hey, the run in Houston is great, so come on down.' So you're having more and more NBA guys coming down. And what's good is that anything we ask, they're pretty good about helping us out a lot."
Granger developed a love for the Pro-Am during his playing days of the mid-1990s, when his regular gig was as the nation's leading scorer (27 points per game in '96). He spent his down time playing in high-level pickup games at Fonde.
Granger insists that playing at Fonde took his game to another level, and he now wants to provide the same atmosphere for Houston college players.
The pros have turned out. Sam Cassell, Cuttino Mobley, Damon Jones, Rashard Lewis and Tierre Brown are playing, and Emeka Okafor, Steve Francis and Reggie Evans are scheduled to play.
T.J. Ford, still rehabbing as he prepares to return to the NBA after spinal surgery, is getting his first taste of coaching.
With all the interest Fonde has attracted, the next step may be to make it an NBA minor league.
"The NBA guys have been great," Granger said. "We're thankful that through Nike's sponsorship that we're able to provide a league like this for the fans, the players and for the community in general.
"It's big to have a young guy like (LSU's) Tack Minor (playing for DBG's), who's still in college and trying to get to the NBA. It's tremendously helpful for him to be able to go up against a guy like Damon Stoudamire one night, and then have to play Steve (Francis) the next night, and then Nick and then Sam.
"For a guy to get that kind of competition, he really gets a chance to measure his skills and see what he needs to work on to get to that next level."
While Fonde has turned out stars, its legacy lags behind other top summer leagues like New York's Rucker League, Philadelphia's Baker League and the Los Angeles Pro Summer League.
But it's closing the gap, which is precisely the aim of Granger and Nike Pro City, which has turned Pro-Am ball into a franchise of sorts. Nike Pro City is now in nine NBA cities — Houston, Chicago, Detroit, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Minneapolis-St. Paul and Washington — and is always looking at bigger plans.
Nike Pro City has juiced up the event, adding a pounding music beat and an emcee to the mix that celebrates the streets as much as it does the NBA.
"The atmosphere they have there, with the music and everything, I think that makes kids want to play basketball because it's fun," said former NBA scout Kyle Manary, who now works with John Lucas. "That's what makes the game grow. It's just a different brand of basketball. Is it always great X's and O's? No. But sometimes you just have to take a step back and let guys work on expanding their games."
And expanding the game is what Nike Pro City is hoping to do. Granger and Allen envision a time when Nike Pro City becomes a haven for European teams looking to get a taste of American ball. And they eventually hope it becomes legitimate summer minor league for the NBA.
"I definitely think we can handle it," Granger said. "That's one of the directions we're looking to go, and I think we have the capability to make it happen."
A shorter-term goal is getting the NBA types to come through the doors.
"We have a standing invitation for Yao Ming, even though I know his summer schedule is pretty busy," Allen said. "I think we can find room on a roster for Yao. Really, I'd like to see some of the Rockets' brass come out here and maybe take a look at some of the players we have out here.
"We're inviting (Rockets coach) Jeff Van Gundy and (general manager) Carroll Dawson to come on out. Who knows? Maybe they'll find a player or two here."