Chris LaRoche doesn't have any clothes, toys or a place to go home to, but on Sunday the 12-year-old's dream came true when he played basketball against LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, Chauncey Billups, Ron Artest and a host of other NBA stars.
LaRoche and about 1,100 other Hurricane Katrina evacuees living in Houston's George R. Brown Convention Center got a morning visit from about a dozen NBA players in town for an evening charity game.
James and the other players spent about 90 minutes playing with kids, signing autographs and greeting fans. TV analyst Kenny Smith organized the game, played at the Toyota Center before a packed crowd that included at least 5,000 evacuees who were given free tickets to the game. Smith said each of the almost 30 players participating in the event donated a minimum of $10,000 in money or supplies to the relief effort.
Louisiana Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu thanked the players and the city of Houston for its support before Jerry Stackhouse treated the crowd to a spirited rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. Kobe Bryant, who spent the day visiting victims, said he was inspired by their positive attitudes.
Allen Iverson arrived about 10 minutes before the game, causing quite a stir. He didn't play but got perhaps the biggest ovation of the day when introduced. He posed for pictures, signed autographs and encouraged the East team from their bench.
Fans were given another treat in the fourth quarter when rapper Kanye West, who publicly criticized President Bush during a telethon last week, arrived at the game. Stephon Marbury dashed across the court to hand West a microphone and he rapped over a verse of his hit "Gold Digger" while the game was delayed and players danced to the music.
The West won the game 114-95. Other players participating in or attending the game included Tracy McGrady, Dwyane Wade, Damon Jones, Steve Francis, Carmelo Anthony, Jermaine O'Neal and Amare Stoudemire, AP reports.