The idea was hatched a couple weeks ago when LeBron James was among a small group reaching out to Isiah Thomas about the possibility of hosting a star-studded charity game at Florida International as a way to connect with fans during the NBA lockout.
A deal was soon struck, and at least for one night, the NBA — along with the biggest Heat stars — will play again in Miami.
Plans were finalized Friday for an charity game that will feature James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and a host of other standouts on Oct. 8 at FIU — the school where Thomas, the Basketball Hall of Famer, is a coach.
Tickets go on sale Monday and organizers expect the game should sell out quickly, with a crowd of just under 5,000 expected. FIU officials said proceeds will go toward Mary’s Court Foundation, a charity established in honor of Thomas’ late mother, Mary Thomas.
The game is “gonna be crazy,” Wade wrote on Twitter, adding that he and James will be on different teams.
The list of other players expected to attend includes Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire, Chris Paul, Rajon Rondo, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, John Wall and Heat guard Mario Chalmers. Some details about the game were released early this week, but it took several more days for certain logistics to be settled and paperwork to be signed.
“I said yes and before you know it, more people wanted to play,” Thomas said. “When LeBron and Wade and those guys get together on something, it goes to show you how quickly it can come together.”
Thomas said he was “overwhelmed” that the game will benefit the charity bearing his mother’s name, an idea he said the players involved in organizing the event came up with on their own.
“When they said that to me, I cried,” Thomas said. “My mom was the NBA mom. Not only did she look out for other moms in the NBA, she tried to help all people. The fact that these guys appreciate things she did, hell, I didn’t even know they knew.”
Some NBA players have played in a handful of exhibitions during the offseason, such as Durant delighting huge crowds at New York’s famed Rucker Park and James and Anthony headlining a game last weekend at The Palestra in Philadelphia. On Saturday, Wade — who hasn’t played in a truly competitive game since the NBA finals — and James are among many stars expected at a game Paul is hosting in North Carolina.
And it’s possible the game at FIU might have more star power than any other exhibition this offseason.
“I’m going to enjoy the moment,” Thomas said. “It really is kind of overwhelming.”
South Florida has been a training hotbed for NBA players throughout the offseason, with Stoudemire and Joe Johnson among those training regularly at FIU and many other players getting into games and working out nearby at the University of Miami.