With suntans and a few sprained ankles, Hoopfest 2017 drifted to a close.
More than 250,000 people gathered in downtown Spokane to shoot free throws and make slam dunks for the annual 3-on-3 basketball tournament. The largest tournament of its kind in the world, this year’s event brought together 6,000 teams, 3,000 volunteers and 450 courts spanning 45 city blocks. It was big, it was hot and it was a heck of an event.
Everyone from the Emoji Girls, a group of grade-school-aged girls wearing prints of their favorite emojis on T-shirts, to Four Point Play, a group of middle-aged men who had been playing in Hoopfest for 20 years, came to show their stuff on the court. Kevin Durant even showed up, crowning the day with a splash of celebrity.
After basketball, the heat was probably the biggest topic of conversation. Keeping 250,000 people cool and hydrated is no simple task.
Race to beat
While not as harsh as it’s been in years past, this year’s Hoopfest weekend saw its fair share of heat, especially on Sunday.
As temperatures rose into the high 80s and lower 90s, people migrated toward shady areas underneath awnings, behind buildings and beneath tree canopies. Vendors did a brisk trade in bottled water and scooped snow cones.
“It’s a hot one,” remarked one snow-cone vendor in Riverfront Park.
The players, meanwhile, juked and jived in the hot sun, some with sun protection, others forgoing it completely.
Teven Borke of Your Worst Nightmare was sporting a heavy tank-top tan line on his chest and back by midday Sunday – half of his skin pearly white, the other a deep, dark red.
“Most of the time after I burn, I tan out,” the 20-year-old said. “As long as my skin’s not boiling, I’m fine.”
On the medical side of things, Providence Spokane reported about a dozen or so heat-related injuries across its three tents interspersed throughout downtown.
“But surprisingly, we haven’t seen any cases of heat exhaustion today,” medical director Robbie Thorn said at about 2 p.m. Sunday.
As usual, there were plenty of sprains, broken or fractured fingers, and scrapes and bruises, she said. But people were mostly unaffected by the hot weather, all things considered.
And unlike Borke, they appeared to be mindful of the sun’s harmful rays.
“We’ve seen people come in and get some sunscreen,” she said. “So nothing too bad.”
Weekend warriors beware
Tears, strains and abrasions tended to be the most common injuries at this year’s Hoopfest, medical tent attendant Teresa Wood said.
One of the biggest ways adults get hurt at Hoopfest is by not practicing all year and then thinking they can jump in and play the same way they did when they were younger, she said. There were a lot of ACL tears this year.
There weren’t many oddities, however, aside from a man who came to the tent hoping the attendants could help treat his congestive heart failure. Last year, Wood said, she saw three brothers who all tore their Achilles tendon on the same day, and their sister had torn her Achilles tendon the year before.
“Thankfully, this year we only got one,” she said.
Last year Kevin Durant’s shoes, this year Kevin Durant
When the announcer introduced him by name, people walking toward Center Court on the corner of Spokane Falls Boulevard and Stevens Street picked up the pace and started running. And when they heard his voice, they sprinted.
“Oh my God, it’s really him,” several people said on their way over.
It was when they laid eyes on the 6-foot-9 Golden State Warrior that they knew: It really was Kevin Durant. In Spokane. At Hoopfest.
“I saw him! I saw him!” 10-year-old Jamal Shyvers shouted as he hopped down from a set of bleachers. Many other people joined him and treated the several-feet-high mazes of metal as a playground jungle gym.
“I sprinted and I jumped on the thing and I almost fell, but I got a picture,” Shyver said proudly. He’s both a fan of the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers, and Durant is one of his favorite players.
“I’m gonna brag to all of my friends,” he said.
Durant, fresh off his first NBA Finals win with the Warriors, spent a few minutes talking to the crowd before blasting a few shirts into the outstretched hands of roaring and screaming fans. Some piggybacked for a view; others craned their necks. Many pulled out their phones and hit record.
But Greg and Leslie Tobin of Quincy, Washington, just ate their ice cream. They were standing near the back in a small patch of shade when the commotion happened.
“We were just here and he happened to be here,” Greg Tobin said, munching on his Nestle Drumstick ice cream cone. “We didn’t even know he’d be here.”
Durant’s exit was as dramatic as his appearance, drawing a crowd of at least a hundred followers with him as he left Center Court.
That marked the end of the day for many Hoopfest-goers, as games wrapped up, deodorant stopped working and the sun dropped a little lower in the sky. Kids got their last snow cones as volunteers emptied garbage cans and streets started to open up. As all good things must do, Hoopfest 2017 came to a close.
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