Seahawks players Tyler Lockett and Kam Chancellor squared off in the final round of the 2016 Ellis Island Invitational on Wednesday at Virginia Mason Athletic Center, a basketball shootout elimination bracket the team started at the beginning of training camp. Tacoma native NBA all-star Isaiah Thomas also joined the fun.
RENTON -- The essence of Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll's 'Always Compete' culture was on full display Wednesday morning at Virginia Mason Athletic Center for the culmination of the 2016 Ellis Island Invitational, a basketball shootout bracket competition established for "all comers" on Seattle's 90-man roster.
Through a span of 87 head-to-head matchups held at the start of each Seahawks team meeting since the beginning of training camp, the Ellis Island Invitational's 88th and final matchup came down to wideout Tyler Lockett, who was representing the offensive side of the football, and strong safety Kam Chancellor, who was holding it down for the defense.
Players trickled into the VMAC auditorium Wednesday, picking sides before the final shootout.
"Oh, this is today," center Justin Britt said as he approached the Ellis Island Invitiational bracket posted outside the team's meeting room.
Running back Christine Michael and guard Jahri Evans had differing opinions on who would take home the title.
"Lock," said Evans, to which Michael replied, "Nah, I've got Kam."
Eventually, players took their seats and gave their attention to coach Carroll at the head of the room.
"Big day today, huh?" Carroll exclaimed before later adding, "No matter how high you go, there's always another challenger," a statement that would serve as a sign of things to come.
Following a short NBA Finals-themed highlight video to help jump start the session, Lockett and his rebounder - fellow receiver Doug Baldwin - were up first. The rules were simple: make as many free throw shots as possible within a 30-second window.
"Don't get scared, No-E!" shouted defenisve line coach Travis Jones, a reference to Lockett's nickname.
Unfazed by half the room shouting in his ear, Lockett downed eight shots in his first series, stepping away from the stripe to give way to Chancellor, who was joined by cornerback Richard Sherman as his rebounder. Chancellor downed six shots in a half-minute, which gave the first round to Lockett. Then, as the 'Space Jam' theme song blared in the background, Lockett calmly took down round number two, nailing seven shots to Chancellor's five. The outcome awarded Lockett a standing ovation for winning the month-long competition, and earned him the title of 2016 Ellis Island Invititational champion.
But Lockett wasn't afforded his stay in the limelight for long. Shortly after the VMAC kitchen staff delivered Lockett a championship belt, the room's lights went dark and a message appeared on the auditorium's projector that read, "A new challenger has appeared!"
A highlight reel of Tacoma native NBA all star Isaiah Thomas started to roll on screen, and as the lights went back up, Thomas made himself present, and he was met with cheers from the Seahawks players and coaches on site.
Joined by a fellow former Husky as his rebounder in receiver Jermaine Kearse, Thomas dropped seven shots in 30 seconds on his first attempt that was met with playful jabs from the crowd.
"Watch the ceiling!" shouted one.
"Hey, you're a pro!" said another.
Lockett followed Thomas' initial attempt by making nine shots of his own to stake an early lead. But the Seahawks' advantage wouldn't hold for long, as Thomas sunk an Ellis Island Invitational record 12 shots on his second attempt, a number that bested Lockett's 10 on the wideout's second series. With the bonus round tied at one set a piece, it was Thomas who calmed the "jitters" he had going in, making nine shots to Lockett's five to take home the best of three.
"That was amazing," said Thomas, who Carroll presented with his own personalized Seahawks jersey. "That was fun. It's something we need to do in basketball just to switch it up a little bit. But it was nice. Coach Pete asked me to come out and surprise the guys and I had to come in and get the win."
The tournament's previous record was 10 makes in 30 seconds, a number Lockett hit once against Thomas and once earlier in the 'Elite 8' during a matchup he won over Kearse. But Thomas' 12 marked the best of the bunch.
"They said I put up a new record," said Thomas. "I had a little bit of jitters going in and they told me the hoop was a little different, it was on a slope, but I got warm, and I got hot."
As for Thomas' takeaway from the eventful morning in his home state?
"Championship atmosphere," he said. "You can just see it when you walk in. It's just different. That's the atmosphere that we want on the Boston Celtics and in the NBA.
"They do a hell of a job here and it's an honor to just be around these guys."