In the late 1990s, Jamar Board, Bobby Maze and Kevin Durant were everyday kids on the unforgiving streets of Washington, D.C.
Board was two years older than Maze. Maze was two years older than Durant. Like most kids in the neighborhood, they all came together on the basketball court, shooting together through the years.
All this time later, Board, who became a never-made-it-out of D.C. playground legend, is dead; Maze, who starred at Tennessee and lives comfortably as a professional playing overseas, is trying to honor Board; and Durant, a bona fide global superstar for the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder, is trying to help.
This is the preface for the 2013 BMaze Celebrity Basketball Game on June 22 at Hardin Valley Academy.
The event is the brainchild of Maze, a two-year starter for the Vols from 2008-10. Its lineup is headlined by Durant and bolstered by fellow D.C.-area NBA players Ty Lawson, Michael Beasley and Jarrett Jack, and friends of Maze such as DeMarcus Cousins. Former UT standouts Tyler Smith, Chris Lofton, Tobias Harris and Scotty Hopson are also expected to attend.
The game is being played in honor of Board with a portion of the proceeds benefiting Big Brothers Big Sisters of East Tennessee.
“We’ve been doing charity games like this for years in D.C. and I’ve always thought about bringing one to Tennessee,” Maze said Wednesday.
Last year, Maze mentioned the idea of a charity game in Tennessee to Board, his cousin and lifelong best friend. Board was a street ball legend in D.C., dubbed “Silent Assassin” for his stealth jump shooting. He pledged, as he always did, to do anything Maze asked of him.
“We dreamed of doing this,” Maze said.
Board died on Dec. 29, 2012. A bullet wound to the head was ruled a suicide. There was no note and results of an autopsy were never revealed. He left behind two children.
“I still wanted to have the game, even though he’s not going to be on the court playing with me,” Maze said. “He can watch from above. I wanted to keep my word. That’s why I wanted to have it in Tennessee. This can still help his family.”
Maze is hoping for a full house at Hardin Valley in two weeks. Durant’s presence should all but assure that. The three-time NBA scoring champion told Maze, “Of course. Wouldn’t miss it for anything,” when asked to attend, according to Maze.
“Kevin is Kevin, like my little brother,” said Maze, who played in Cyprus last year, averaging 14.2 points per game for Keravnos Strovolou. “I know he’s blown up into this superstar and it’s totally different, but he’s family.”
Durant has told Maze the only obstacle that could keep him from visiting Knoxville would be an unexpected Nike obligation.
Maze said Bruce Pearl, who recruited him to Tennessee in 2008, has agreed to coach one of the teams in the celebrity game. Maze is waiting to hear if Lady Vols coach Holly Warlick is available to lead the other. Cuonzo Martin, who is hosting a camp that weekend, is unavailable.
Tickets for the game are available for $20 at http://www.a3athletics.com/ or $25 at the door.
“I feel like this will be one of the best basketball events to ever come through Knoxville,” Maze said.