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It is not just the top players in the NBA who are heading to New Orleans for the upcoming All-Star weekend, as stars will take to the court for the Sprint Celebrity Game on Feb. 14.
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Kevin Hart — who has already scored big in 2014 with Ride Along and About Last Night — Michael B. Jordan, Victoria’s Secret model Erin Heatherton, Nick Cannon, Grey’s Anatomy’s Jesse Williams and Scandal‘s Columbus Short will join WNBA players Skylar Diggins and Elena Delle Donne for the annual game. Keeping the talent in check on the court are coaches Jalen Rose and Bill Simmons of ESPN’s NBA Countdown.
“I have three of the best WNBA players in the league as well, and Michael B. Jordan is on my team — he was an excellent high school player, apparently, so I’m excited to see him play. He was talking on my [Grantland] podcast a few weeks ago about how he was always mistaken for the other Michael Jordan and how it fueled him to get into basketball.”
He jokes, “I thought he should have been nominated for the Oscar, so maybe winning the NBA Celebrity Game will soften the blow, although it is the worst consolation prize ever.”
Also on Simmons’ team is Hart, who is “probably the hottest comedian right now. He’s won the MVP two years in a row, and he’s on my team — he’s small though,” says Simmons of the 5’2″ actor.
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One player sure to tower over Hart is Heatherton, who tells THR that she’s been playing basketball all her life and competed in high school.
“It is such an escapism to shoot baskets because it’s very technical — it is like cooking, it is so cathartic,” reveals the 5’11” blonde, who shoots at Chelsea Piers with fellow VS angel Candice Swanepoel. “I really love it — even if I suck on Friday. I am such a tomboy at heart. If I get injured, it’s a nice legacy. They’ll say, ‘She could have it all — but she gave it away for a game!’ I wouldn’t mind if I got a black eye during the game; it’s better than breaking an ankle wearing high heels.”
She adds, “I’m not confrontational, but I do like a game with some trash-talking. I love a bit of a rift; it’s like a soap opera. But I don’t know how it is going to pan out playing against boys — I just want to make one basket.”
When it comes to trash-talking, coach Simmons is a pro and has already been going head-to-head with Rose, with whom he made a trade for Delle Donne, in return for Diggins and “six lobster tempura dinners,” he says. “I think we made the first-ever trade in the NBA Celebrity Game history.”
Simmons goes on to explain how the teams were chosen. “We [the coaches] wanted to do a draft, but the NBA — probably smartly — has a system where they want to weigh the players and assess the talents so that it’s as balanced a game as possible and one team is not winning by 30 points in the second half.
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“It is almost like a pickup game,” the rookie coach continues. “I have never played in it, but I was the assistant coach one year, and being the head coach will be fun. You can’t really overly coach these things, but it’s important to get the minutes right. You have to make sure that when they are out there everyone gets a chance to run around.”
Along with the highly anticipated Sprite Slam Dunk contest and the best of the NBA — including LeBron James, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Kevin Durant — facing off in Sunday’s 63rd All-Star Game, fans in New Orleans will get to enjoy musical performances from Pharrell Williams, Kendrick Lamar, Earth, Wind & Fire, Janelle Monae, Trombone Shorty, Jason Derulo, Aloe Blacc and Mack Wilds.
The NBA All-Star 2014 Celebrity Game airs on Feb. 14 at 7 p.m. EST on ESPN.
Watch Simmons and Rose reveal their teams in the video below:
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