With only one full day left in Paris, I rose with quite the dilemma on my plate. Go spend the day exploring around one of the most historic cities on Earth, or go watch the conclusion of the tournament. Being the diplomat that I am, I decided to stop by the tournament for a little bit before venturing off to soak in more of the sights.
By the time we arrived, the stands were filling up. There was a good sized line to get in as well. I walked over to where we were the previous day, and there was not a seat in sight. At the last second, one opened up, but we were a party of two. Ever so Magically, the 2nd seat became available, as a man offered his seat to us so we could stay together. (and who says the French are all assholes?)
It didn't take but 5 minutes to realize we lucked out! Every single seat was taken, and security was on their jobs, not letting anyone linger in any area not designated to do so. And from the looks of things, Quai 54's security had been in the gym much more than we had, preparing for this one. It was about this time that Emma and I looked at each other and gave that look of surrender as we both acknowledged, we were in this for the long haul. There would be no sightseeing today.That being said, this tournament better deliver some history of it's own.
And Quai 54 did not disappoint. The team we lost to ended up making it to the final 4 before being eliminated by the eventual champ. There was definitely some strong ball being played. What separated the successful teams from not was height. The best teams ran with shooting guards who were 6'6", 6'7". And had a full arsenal on the perimeter and post.
We, (Japan) got a lot of love throughout the day. Not only did the MC, "Mokobe" give us multiple shout outs throughout the day, but everyone affiliated with the tournament was genuinely intrigued about our squad and what's going on with the basketball scene out here in Japan. It felt like this was a mutually beneficial exchange, as Quai 54 was excited about reaching further into the global sphere. All the while we were pretty happy for obvious reasons.
The tournament itself is an incredibly entertaining event. Basketball often times taking a side to halftime shows and fan games that captured everyones' attention. My personal favorite was a kids dance-off, where they brought out youngins who looked to be ages 6-10, and had them request a song and then do their thing, right there at center court. You should have seen these kids... they'd sound all shy and bashful when they were on the mic. But when the music dropped!!! Oh My Goooodness! They got so serious wit it. You couldn't tell them they were not in a Beyonce video. Not only was it cute, but it was a nice touch that complemented the sometimes barbaric efforts on the basketball court with a sense of humanity and culture.
However, the highlight of the day had to be just before the last semifinal game. People who could see over the stands started go crazy. Creating a buzz that carried throughout the stadium. The music dropped, and outta nowhere came LUDACRIS!!! It was nuts! Everybody was leaping up and down off the top of the bleachers as he played "Stand Up...Stand Up!!" And just when we thought it could get no better, out stepped....USHER!! Everyone was in disbelief! The two of them lit it up.
It was crazy though, cause after the show, when there was still a buzz in the crowd, the MC started saying..."Yeah Japan! Yeah Japan!! Is Quai 54 for real? Or What!? What do you think of Quai 54 now?!!" All I could muster was, "Woooww!! This is the truth!"
The championship game ended up being NY (Sean Bell All-Stars) VS. France (La Fusion) under the lights at Porte du Choisy. In the 1st half, NY's point gaurd Kareem "Best Kept Secret" Reid (former Arkansas PG) single handedly kept his squad in contention. In the previous games he appeared to be lethargic and often times disinterested. But that all made perfect sense once he unleashed the lion on these boys from France. But the bigs from France kept finishing on their end. Leaving it at about a 5 point game at half.
The 2nd half was all France, as they found their touch from the outside, burrying 3 after 3 after 3. Kareim Reid hit a couple in the beginning, but they eventually wore him down. The final score was something like a 20 point game, maybe worse. But my French friend confirmed, their roster was so talented that no French Club could afford to have all of them on one team. Needless to say, they were the creme de la creme. But we'll be back next year, with a lil something extra wit us, this go round!!
That night finished off in the perfect fashion. A long-time friend of mine, Native, whom I met out in Egypt, came through and we made our way down to Chatelet to grab a bite and catch up on old times. It didn't take us but 30 minutes before we dove to the depths of humanity.
Native is without question the most talented artist I know personally. With a wide range of influences which he's accumulated as he's globetrotted, his work has always had a great deal of depth to it. It turns out, Paris has been real good to him, he'll be heading to the Motherland in a few months to complete a few murals for on a stadium being sponsored by France's famous footballer Thierry Henry. But from what I gather, that's just the tip of the iceburg on his path.
Anyhow, I've always known Native to be a true intellectual. The type of guy to dap you up and appear to be so hood on the street, but then you catch a glimpse of his library and you realize this dude is a Genius. That being said, I never miss an opportunity to pick at his brain.
We discussed a good deal of topics, ranging from the inevitability of death and how we've come to define this stage in life we're in right now. Coupled with the Artist's Mind and the importance of utilizing the time we have. I'm never one to recount specifics which is a shame cause the brotha dropped jewels all night long.
However, the grandest of topics we touched on was Existentialism. The question arose, which came 1st Existence or Essence. I'm a mystic, so I was heavily on the essence side, but when he got to breaking down his perspective I was like SHIIIIT! Don't even tell me these are all definitions humans created in attempt to give purpose to their lives. It seemed as if every attempt I made to justify my perspective, (that we are all-knowing and one with Creation/Creator before being incarnated) got slain quickly by the simple statement, "But you had to exist for that to happen." It was intriguing and scary to say the least. But that's why I love building with good people. And Native is certainly that.
And just like that, the 1st light of day made its' way to the sky. This the backdrop to Notre Dame. It was a quick trip, with a myriad of emotions, but Paris certainly left its' imprint on my soul. I can only hope to return again...SOON!