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An Assist From the MTV Hoopsters

TIMES STAFF WRITER

If anyone was expecting a run-of-the-mill basketball game, they were set straight Saturday when the audience stood for an earsplitting rock rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Players as diverse as Olympic Dream Team member Sheryl Swoopes and model Marcus Schenkenberg dribbled the ball down a court lined with giant Day-Glo cartoon faces and a mock soda fountain.

And long before halftime, the game paused while two peach-skirted waitresses on roller skates sailed across the floor with a birthday cake for player and longtime MTV sports host Dan Cortese.

A bevy of cameras duly recorded the moment, and fans could study the cake--live--on a mammoth screen.

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This is basketball MTV-style, played before nearly 4,000 fans Saturday evening at the Bren Events Center at UC Irvine.

The sixth annual Rock ‘N Jock B-Ball Jam brought together television, music and sports figures to raise money for charity and to film a show to be broadcast Oct. 26 on the music network.

The actual game stopped, started and stopped again, amid stunts and prize giveaways, to last more than three hours.

But the largely college-age audience didn’t seem to mind, instead screaming loudly on cue when a camera passed by or when their favorite star scored a basket.

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“Noise,” urged the overhead game monitor whenever a cheer was needed.

The game pitted the traditional winning team, the Bricklayers, against the underdog Violators, which trailed, 42-16, at halftime. Though the Violators rallied, they still lost, 94-90.

Players included Swoopes and fellow Olympian Lisa Leslie on opposing teams, along with Harlem Globetrotters Paul “Showtime” Gaffney and Arnold “A-Train” Bernard.

Sprinkled among the teams were music figures such as rap artist Warren G, R&B; singer Aaliyah, and Spinderella, the deejay for rappers Salt-N-Pepa.

Actors joined the team as well, including Linda Fiorentino of “The Last Seduction,” and Nicholas Turturro of “NYPD Blue.”

Brothers Matthew and Joey Lawrence of the sitcom “Brotherly Love” played on opposing teams but posed together for a crowd of photographers before the game. And Gena Lee Nolin of “Baywatch” served as “courtside reporter” for the game.

An MTV spokesman said the event raised $50,000 for the Ronald McDonald House Charities, which supports 170 houses in 13 countries. Ronald McDonald Houses were started in 1974 as “homes away from home” for families forced to travel to care for seriously ill children.


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