Arizona Guardsmen Take on NBA Stars
(February 21, 2009)
left, and Spc.
pose for a photo with National Basketball
Association superstar Shaquille O'Neal during
NBA All-Star Weekend in Phoenix, Feb. 15, 2009.
WASHINGTON, Feb. 17, 2009 – Arizona Army
and Air National Guardsmen were honored for their combat
service Feb. 15 with an opportunity to score against
National Basketball Association greats Shaquille O'Neal and
David Robinson during the 2009 NBA All-Star Weekend here.
But this competition didn't take place on a basketball
court. Instead, the troops vied for a chance to play the
pros one-on-one via an Xbox Live video-gaming system.
Army Spc. Aaron Patten, an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran,
climbed his way to the top of the brackets in the EA sports
NBA Live 09 game to play against O'Neal, a Phoenix Suns
all-star, in the finals.
Army Staff Sgt. Steven Barrett took second place and played
against David Robinson, former star of the San Antonio
Spurs, who is among this year's finalists for induction into
the Basketball Hall of Fame in his first year of
O'Neal and Robinson signed autographs,
posed for photos and shook hands with the troops. Robinson
also played a wounded warrior recovering from his injuries
in Iraq live via satellite. |
O'Neal played deployed Air Force Master Sgt. Anthony James
and his family live via satellite, as well. O'Neal hoisted
Trey James, the sergeant's son, up to the Web camera for a
surprise appearance and conversation with his dad.
The father and son have been separated for two years due to
James' deployment in support of operations in Iraq and
Greg and Addie Zinone, co-founders of “Pro vs. GI Joe,” came
up with the concept of matching professional athletes with
returning and deployed troops.
Addie, who twice deployed with the Army Reserve, realized
first-hand the importance of maintaining morale for deployed
“So many of them are gamers on their down time anyway,” she
said. “We were able to team up with the USO to enable
deployed troops to play against celebrities who are
“This was definitely a morale booster,” Patten said. “These
athletes have a lot of time to do so many other things, and
taking time out to play with us is so cool.”
Although Robinson competed against the troops, he also took
time to honor the Guardsmen who are still deployed overseas:
“Hang in there,” he said. “We really appreciate what you're
doing. It means a lot to us, and it doesn't go unnoticed.
When you come back, we'll give you a hero's welcome.”
Robinson is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and a Navy
veteran. O'Neal's father is an Army veteran. O'Neal was
named co-Most Valuable Player at the all-star game later in
Article and photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Angela Walz|
Arizona National Guard
Special to American Forces Press Service
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