NEW ORLEANS, La. – Australia’s Jason Belmonte and NBA All-Star point guard Chris Paul successfully defended their Chris Paul PBA Celebrity Invitational Doubles title at Riverboat Lanes at the Naval Airbase Station in Belle Chasse, La., thanks to a big-time assist from the New Orleans Hornets’ assist leader.
Belmonte, the two-handed power player from Down Under, and his tournament host/NBA superstar partner combined to win the “Baker format” doubles event, 155-128, over PBA Hall of Famer Norm Duke and his partner, Grammy Award-winning rap artist Lil Wayne. After plenty of high-scoring fireworks in the earlier matches, the championship match wasn’t pretty, but it came down to a strike and three spares by Paul that decided the outcome.
The special Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour event, conducted in December, aired on ESPN Sunday in advance of the Super Bowl.
“This one was not by the hand of Belmo; it was all Chris Paul,” Belmonte said. “Last year I got three strikes in 10th to win. This time it was him. Next time hopefully we’ll both get it together.”
The third annual Chris Paul Invitational, conducted on behalf of the CP3 Foundation, featured Lil Wayne bowling with Duke, hip-hop superstar Nelly with PBA Hall of Fame partner Pete Weber, and New Orleans Saints running back Reggie Bush teamed up with Wes Malott. Rhino Page also joined his fellow Storm Products staff players by participating in a “Super Clash” preliminary event.
The stage for a wild day of bowling action was set early when Page took on the four celebrity stars in the “Super Clash” where each player bowled a frame and the lowest score was eliminated. Ironically, after all four celebrities struck in the first frame, Page was the first player eliminated when he left a 6-8 split on his first attempt. Eventually, Nelly won the contest by throwing five consecutive strikes to out-last Paul.
Nelly, a “thumbless” bowler, then teamed up with Weber for a stunning 280-169 romp over Bush and Malott in the first Baker doubles match. The only shot that prevented a perfect game was Weber’s 10 pin in the second frame.
“There was a lot of excitement,” Weber said. “Nelly got a couple Brooklyns in the Clash event, but after that, he had 10 in the pit. He uses two fingers, no thumb and shoots his spares the same way.
“I used to bowl in the same league with him (in St. Louis),” Weber added. “I knew if he had a good ball reaction he’d be all right. It was hard for us to miss the pocket.”
For their next match against Lil Wayne and Duke, however, Duke decided to confuse Nelly.
“Lil Wayne and I were sitting there, hoping the scoring pace would be low,” Duke said. “Then Nelly gets a five-bagger to knock out everyone out of the Clash, including Rhino, and he throws five more in the first match. He hadn’t missed for 10 shots, so things were not looking good for Lil Wayne and me. Nelly not only can bowl, but he was on a severe roll.”
“Norm made us switch lanes,” Weber said. “Nelly had lane 2 figured out, so Norm made Nelly bowl on lane 1 and he didn’t have a clue as to what to do.”
“I figured 200 would be over-achieving for us,” Duke added. “Lil Wayne needs some work. But right before we started, I had him move to the right and straighten his delivery. He threw five shots that looked like they’re going to the gutter, but they all came back to strike and we’ve got 245. That was stratospheric.”
The strategic move helped Lil Wayne and Duke eliminate Nelly and Weber, 245-205, and advance to the title match, where Lil Wayne’s luck ran out, and Duke’s five strikes weren’t enough to save the team.
“You can only get lucky for so long,” Duke said. “That first game was all we had. We had no more magic after that.”
“Chris did a lot better than last year,” Belmonte said of Paul. “He’s not bowling as much as he’d like, but he’s just a talented sports person. If he gets his hand on a ball, no matter what game, he’ll be pretty good at it.
“If you watch him on the basketball court, you can see how competitive he is. He takes the same intensity to the lanes and so do I. It doesn’t matter if it’s hoops or skee ball or whatever. It’s especially sweet when you do this against friends. I know he likes to beat his friends.”
For the PBA stars, the experience of bowling with the celebrity stars in front of a packed audience of invited guests from the military community was a thrill.
“We had fun last year, but this year was especially fun, and I think it was because of the diversity of athletes and musicians and pro bowlers,” Duke said. “It just added another level. The reaction by the military people to Lil Wayne was just amazing. He has a huge, huge following.”
“Reggie (Bush) and I had a 280 shot at us, but it was just a neat experience to be able to hang out with those guys,” Malott said. “Every year the competition gets better, but I honestly don’t know how (Paul) is going to top this one. It’s a fun event and it’s for a good cause.”
The Invitational benefits Paul’s CP3 Foundation which was founded in 2005 as a tribute to his late grandfather and the Winston-Salem, N.C., community where he grew up. The CP3 foundation has provided funding for activities ranging from a scholarship program to food drives to recreational support programs for underprivileged children in both Winston-Salem and New Orleans.
The Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour returns to competition Feb. 8-13 with the Bayer/United States Bowling Congress Masters at the National Bowling Stadium in Reno, Nev. The third major championship of the 2010-11 season will pay the winner $50,000. ESPN will air the finals live at 3 p.m. Eastern/noon Pacific on Sunday, Feb. 13.
Qualifying and match play rounds will be webcast live on pba.com’s Xtra Frame video streaming service. To subscribe, visit pba.com and click on the Xtra Frame logo.