Jon Ackerman, NBC Olympics
LONDON — Scheduled for 11 p.m. local time, the three pool matches for Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings were already late enough. But when the games preceding their past two matches carried into three sets, the Americans didn’t actually get started until about 11:30.
They could have used some athletes to pepper with. Good thing members of the U.S. basketball team showed up.
On Thursday, roughly 15 minutes before taking the court, May and Walsh were greeted by Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant and James Harden on the warm-up courts outside the main beach volleyball stadium. The basketball players showed up to watch the greatest beach volleyball team ever.
Then they found themselves trying to figure out how to block them, with a man advantage.
The five athletes played a quick, impromptu game and the beach pros showed the basketball stars how tough it is to run around in sand. Durant — who has said he wanted to try beach volleyball — did record one block on Walsh, but it was after the women had already built a significant lead and were just toying with their millionaire opponents.
Two nights earlier, May and Walsh were challenged by Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook. When they decided they’d go one more point — because, you know, May and Walsh had a real match to play — Walsh caught Paul by surprise with an Olympic-caliber spike.
“At first I’m like, ‘Gosh, we got to be focusing,’” Walsh said. “But when you’re so intense, once they’re there and you’re getting their energy, it’s such a welcome distraction. Because we’re out there, (the previous match) went three games again, and we’re just waiting and waiting and waiting so it’s a good distraction… They’re awesome and they have magic about them and I want to take some of that magic.”
May and Walsh would never be allowed to arrive at a U.S. Olympic basketball game and play a quick game of H-O-R-S-E with the starting lineup. But that’s what makes beach volleyball so much different than other sports.
“It’s fun and I think it’s good for the sport,” May said, adding, “You don’t see them getting in the pool with Michael Phelps, right? They’re here with us playing volleyball.”
Know who else wants to try? LeBron James. He may have missed his chance to take on May and Walsh, though.
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