The world might know him as the sprint king but Usain Bolt is proving to be a sportsman in the truest term.
The word champion sprinter hogged the limelight in a celebrity basketball game in Houston on Friday in the run-up to Sunday’s NBA All-Star game.
He was the most popular name in the Celebrity Game, featuring a mixture of well-known people from all walks of life, including some former NBA players.
Bolt played for almost 29 minutes, scoring once and assisting in five.
He hit one of five shots, missed both of his free throws and totalled just two points. The only shot the sixth-times Olympic champion made was a dunk.
The Jamaican sprinter, whose East team was blitzed by the West 58-38, said he was surprised that his opponents took the game so seriously.
“Yeah, it was fun playing in the game,” Bolt said later. “It was good for a change, but then it was quite serious out there.”
In spite of ending up on the losing side, the Jamaican wasn’t too upset. “I quite enjoyed the game,” he said.
Bolt said he did not get the ball enough.
Perhaps that was because he missed an uncontested lay-in, had a three-footer clang off the rim, and failed to capitalize on his four offensive rebounds.
“I wanted to do more but these guys were hogging (the ball),” he said with a smile. “They didn’t give me no chances or nothing. I haven’t played basketball in a while. For me to come out here and have fun, that was the key.”
Although known for his legendary runs over 100m and 200m, Bolt indulges in many sports, including cricket and football. However, he admitted that basketball was among his priorities as the athlete showed excellent court sense and understanding with teammates.
“I do enjoy football too,” he said.
There have been suggestions that he might turn out in T20 cricket, either in the Indian Premier League (IPL) or the Big Bash. “It would be fun to play these games. That would be very interesting,” he said.
He is known for his keen interest in cricket and is known to follow West Indies cricket closely.
On the basketball court on Friday, Bolt showed a very energetic side, chasing the ball almost everywhere. With the kind of fitness he has to maintain to remain the fastest man on earth, it wasn’t surprising that Bolt showed least signs of tiredness among all participants in the game.
The man Bolt guarded most of the game, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, scored 11 points had five assists and out-rebounded Bolt 7-6.
“He’s the world’s fastest man and I’m the world’s slowest,” the 48-year-old Duncan said. “He might not have scored much but he sure looked good going up and down the court.”
Actor and comedian Kevin Hart even challenged Bolt to a run-and-score contest. Bolt lost, as he didn’t know he had to score at both ends to win the contest. Hart celebrated with a greased lighting pose that had even Bolt in splits.