Cruz edges out Kimmel in charity basketball game in Houston

It was the Thunderdome from “Mad Max” or the coliseum from “Spartacus,” if either Max or Sparty were two, middle-aged American men playing a slow-motion car-crash of half-court basketball for charity and political one upsmanship.

Conservative Texas Sen. Ted Cruz triumphed over liberal ABC late-night host/comedian Jimmy Kimmel with a hard-won 11-9 victory in the first Blobfish Basketball Classic at Texas Southern University’s Health and Physical Education Arena Saturday. The event, which turned out to be a Coachella festival of air balls, missed shots and footwork that would make a sloth look like Usain Bolt, was sparked by Twitter trash-talk that started after Cruz posted a picture of himself supporting the Houston Rockets over the Golden State Warriors during Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals. Kimmel joked that Cruz resembled a blobfish, a not particularly attractive creature that dwells at the bottom of the ocean.

Cruz responded with the idea of a b-ball challenge. Kimmel took him up on it and the two agreed the proceeds from their $5,000 wager would be donated to two local charities, the non-profit Generation One and Texas Children’s Hospital. Parts of the game will be televised on Kimmel’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” show Monday at 10:35 p.m.

The crowd in the 8,100-capacity venue — though half of the seats were blocked off because it was not a full-court game — was enthusiastic, even if the level of play often was not. While most of the fans seemed to be on Kimmel’s side in terms of sport and politics — there were enough T-shirts proclaiming support for Democratic senatorial candidate (and Cruz political opponent) Beto O’Rourke to make it seem like a Beto convention. But Cruz, wearing a Houston Strong shirt, had a lot of support in the town he calls home, too.

Houston resident Randall Haynie was there in a Trump shirt and MAGA hat. “These events don’t usually happen when a senator or someone calls out someone. That person [usually] backs down,” he said before the game. “So you can see why there are so many people are here. Another reason is to see my senator … I hope Cruz wins.”