Hollywood's E-League Players Talk Making Baskets, Jason Collins' NBA Debut
Stars swapped their movie sets and TV studios for the basketball court Sunday when they came out for the opening game of the E-League, a "secret society" that unites actors and athletes for the love of the game.
Among the players who were organized into teams representing major U.S. sporting cities were Fantastic Four's Michael B. Jordan, James Van Der Beek, Dean Cain, Bill Bellamy, Jay Harrington (Hot in Cleveland), and even former NFL star Terrell Owens.
Now in its 17th year, the E-League plays at the Equinox Sports Club in West L.A. and mimics the real NBA, complete with sideline reporters, commentators, team uniforms -- and of course, plenty of tough competition and trash talking.
"It is way more professional than I thought," newcomer Van Der Beek told The Hollywood Reporter after he helped his Dallas team to a win by hitting a three-pointer. "I grew up playing baseball and football, so this is new to me. The most I had to offer is I can run around," admitted the former Dawson's Creek star, who was expecting it to be more like a pickup game.
Lois & Clarke star Cain has been in the league almost since the beginning, and thinks it is one of the best places to really get to know people in the industry. "You are playing with your peers, who you may not know, but on the court, you get to know them as both people and competitors. It is different from when you are acting, or if you guest star on their show," Cain told THR.
"You find some guys who you think are OK, and others that you don’t want on your squad, which has happened over the years. Finding the right guys to play with is the key to this league because you really have to earn your stripes and show up," he revealed.
As a former wide receiver for the 49ers, Eagles and Cowboys, Owens is used to bringing his A-game, no matter what he is playing. "Anytime I play anything, then I’m competitive, whether it’s Jengo or marbles," T.O. told THR, adding. "It is an incredible league, everyone is giving it their all, and we’re just trying to have a good time with it. A lot of these guys are actors and they want to be athletes, musicians who want to be actors, or athletes who want to be actors."
The biggest story in the NBA this week is not who is winning or losing, but the signing of the first openly gay player, Jason Collins, to the Brooklyn Nets. He made his debut against the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, and THR asked the E-Leaguers their thoughts on the historic move.
"I think it is great for the NBA, it is monumental," said T.O. "There were some questions about his decision because he hadn't been picked up so a lot of people weighed in on if it had prohibited him from getting on a team." Along with NFL draft prospect Michael Sam coming out, "these are groundbreaking decisions," said Owens, who added: "They have a responsibility, too – not only to the guys in the locker room, but they also have to handle themselves in a professional way as well."
Cain said it makes no difference to him whether someone is straight or gay. "I am not going to celebrate him because he’s gay, or vilify him for it. If he was my teammate, he would just be Jason. I don’t see the difference. If there is a name they can call you [on the court], they will. When I go out they call me ‘Superman’ – should I be offended?" he asked. "I don’t think it should even be an issue, I just hope he plays well. He needs to do some 'balling, he’s a big man and they need a big man," he said of the 7-foot, 35-year-old center who signed a 10-day contract with the Nets.