Pop Vs. Jock is a charity basketball game hosted by Arcade Fire during the Pop Montreal Music festival. For the game, Team Pop (which is made up of musicians, celebrities, and a few former pro basketball players) takes on Team Jock (which is made up of current members of the McGill University and Concordia College basketball teams). Proceeds from the game support DJ Sports Club, one of the largest youth clubs in Montreal.
In 2012, I made my Pop Vs. Jock debut as a member of Team Pop. It was my first public basketball game after calling it quits on a fledgling “professional” basketball career that brought me to gyms throughout Eastern Europe. I didn’t quite know what to expect from the Pop Vs. Jock experience, and I was slightly nervous about playing with normal people like Martin Starr (Party Down) and Nikolai Fraiture (The Strokes), among others.
What ensued that year was one of the more intriguing basketball games of my life. It was a mash-up of competitive hoops, indie rock, and the most supportive basketball audience ever (hip French Canadians).
Admittedly, the pageantry surrounding the game was distracting at times–I mean David Byrne was our coach for crying out loud! But somehow, the game remained surprisingly intense and physical. We ended up losing in 2012 on a last-second Team Jock three-pointer that was hoisted right in my face, which—as far as charity games go—is probably the most devastating way to lose.
Needless to say, I was thrilled when Arcade Fire still wanted me to be on Team Pop’s roster for Pop Vs. Jock III this past weekend. The release of Reflektor forced the Montreal band to take a hiatus from hosting Pop Vs. Jock in 2013, so I had to wait a full two years for my chance at redemption.
The Team Pop roster included the usuals: Win Butler (Arcade Fire), Will Butler (Arcade Fire), and Nikolai Fraiture (The Strokes), but we also added newcomers like Justin Vernon (Bon Iver), Brian Scalabrine (retired 11-year NBA veteran), and Royal Ivey (retired 10-year NBA veteran). Plus, my brother Matt Bonner (San Antonio Spurs) coached the team.
Again, the experience was top notch. Regine Chassagne, Kid Koala, and A-Trak kept the in-game music bumping, the gym was filled to capacity, and the game was competitive. At one point in the second half we built a 20-point lead. Reaching a point of desperation, Team Jock adopted a full-court press that gave us fits, and they stormed back to tie things up after a string of three-pointers.
Ultimately, we were able to hold on to claim a 101-92 win and bring that trophy back to its rightful owners, Team Pop.
Some highlights and takeaways from the weekend below:
Luke Bonner played “professional” basketball in Lithuania, Hungary and the NBA Developmental league. He’s currently pretending to be a real-life adult at GYK Antler, a leading marketing agency. He’s the founder/executive director of the Rock On Foundation, a 501c3 nonprofit organization that increases opportunities in the arts and athletics. One time, Diddy said “thank you” to Luke. Follow Luke on twitter: @LukeyBonner