by Paul Knepper
Last night, two-time NBA MVP and owner of the Vancouver Whitecaps of MLS, Steve Nash, laced up his cleats at Sara D. Roosevelt Park in Manhattan’s Lower East Side for the fourth annual “Showdown in Chinatown.” The event, hosted by Nash, is an 8 on 8 soccer match for charity, involving several NBA ballplayers and current and former soccer players.
Past participants in “the showdown” included footballers Thierry Henry, Jozy Altidore, Steve McManaman, Robbie Fowler and Salomon Kalou and basketball players Baron Davis, Chris Bosh, Nate Robinson and Raja Bell.
Two of the biggest names to compete last night were Nash’s Phoenix Suns teammate Grant Hill and San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker. Phoenix Suns Marcin Gortat and Jared Dudley got in on the action, as did former Sun Leandro Barbosa and Milwaukee Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings. Nash’s younger brother Martin, a former member of the Canadian Soccer National Team and the Vancouver Whitecaps also brought his talents to the Lower East Side.
The soccer players who participated included former USA World Cup team captain Claudio Reyna, West Ham’s leading goal scorer this season Demba Ba and current and former international futbol players Patrick Vieira, Giuseppe Rossi and Youri Djorkaeff.
The bleachers around the pitch were filled to capacity and fans stood several rows deep along the chain-linked fences that line the length of the field to get a glimpse of the action. Spontaneous chants broke out for various players and there was at least one vuvuzela in the crowd. The event was free, though viewers could pay for a prime seat around the perimeter of the field. There were also special packages available for sale, some of which included admittance to the “Showdown After Hours” live auction event.
It came as no surprise that Nash was by far the most skilled ball handler among the NBA guys. Soccer was his first sport. But, I was surprised at just how good he was. It was clear that Parker (from France), and the Brazilian Barbosa had strapped on shin guards before, while Brandon Jennings looked particularly out of his element. Suns center, 6 foot 11 Marcin Gortat, AKA the “Polish Hammer” was surprisingly nimble in goal.
There was plenty of laughter on the night. Dudley amused the crowd by summoning his inner Brandi Chastain, ripping off his shirt after scoring a goal and running to midfield before belly flopping on the turf. He also evoked some laughs by poking fun at Gortat’s chinstrap beard, saying “he’s bringing the Abe Lincoln look back.” Nothing was more comical than chubby ESPN.com columnist Marc Stein huffing and puffing his way up and down the pitch.
Proceeds from the game and after party will go to the Steve Nash Foundation and Claudio Reyna Foundation. Nash explained at halftime that his foundation works with Educare, an organization dedicated to providing a quality education to underprivileged children ages 0-5.
Reyna’s foundation, based in New York and New Jersey, is committed to inspiring underserved youth in urban communities with positive experiences through soccer, education and community involvement in hopes of growing healthy bodies, minds and spirits.
For more information about “the showdown” and the Steve Nash Foundation please visit:
You can find more information about the Claudio Reyna Foundation at: