Ratliff Celebrity game bringing array of stars to Demopolis

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 30, 2005

Demopolis’s Theo Ratliff, one of the NBA’s all-time best shot blockers, is a big-name player. The Theo Ratliff Activity Center, currently under construction, will be a big-time facility for the children of Demopolis. So it’s little wonder that in order to give the center a boost, Ratliff is bringing some big-name, big-time people to Demopolis.

They’re coming as part of the first annual Theo Ratliff Celebrity Basketball Game, to be held June 11 at 3 p.m. in the Demopolis High gymnasium. Tickets will be $10 for adults and $7 for children. All proceeds from the event will go towards the Ratliff Activity Center.

Ratliff representative Michael Harris says that Ratliff has organized charity celebrity games before, but that being able to bring one back to his hometown is special.

“This is the first time to do it in Demopolis,” Harris says. “He’s excited…we wanted to bring something like this to the community.”

Stipulations in his contract with the Portland Trail Blazers mean that Ratliff won’t be able to take the floor for the game himself, but he will be on hand and out front as one of the game’s celebrity coaches.

“NBA players can’t play in celebrity games,” Harris says, “but we’ll have NFL players and several celebrity actors.”

Although still subject to change between now and then, the list of celebrities that will visit Demopolis and take part in the game will be sure to thrill many in the community. The tentative, unconfirmed roster includes actor and actress Antwon Tanner and Nana Gbewonyo from the film “Coach Carter”; R&B artists Chilly&T-Boz, formerly of the group TLC; Chico Benymon of the UPN program “Hal and Half”; Orlando Brown of the TV show “That’s So Raven”; Ken Lawson from the UPN show “The Parkers”; and Lance Johnstone, star defensive end for the Minnesota Vikings. In addition to Ratliff, NBA stars Eric Snow of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Andre Iguodala of the Philadelphia 76ers will be celebrity coaches for the game.

So why would a galaxy of stars like that even consider coming to Demopolis? Friendship with Ratliff for one thing, but Harris says there’s more to it than that.

“These are real good friends, and they’re real good people,” he says. “People only see them on TV, and don’t know them, but they’re truly good people. They’re willing to give back to the people who have made them stars.”

It helps, too, to have a cause everyone can believe in and feels good working towards.

“It’s great to have everyone working together for this goal,” Harris says. “He wants to offer something to the youth of the community. It will give the opportunity to young people for them to get off the street.”

As if the allure of seeing that many celebrities under one roof wasn’t enough, Harris says the game will also feature a slam-dunk contest, door prizes, various audience-participation contests during timeouts (including a contest in which kids can try to make a lay-up wearing an NBA player’s oversized shoes), and of course, the chance to help give Demopolis’s youth a safe place to learn and grow.

“It’s an opportunity for everyone to give back to their community,” Harris says. “We care about this community, and everybody who’s involved cares.”