In one of the highest scoring televised Baker format doubles title matches in PBA history, comedian and podcast innovator Chris Hardwick and 14-time tour winner Chris Barnes defeated actor/comedian Kevin Hart and four-time PBA Tour titlist Bill O’Neill, 270-267, to win the 5th annual Chris Paul PBA League All-Stars tournament, which aired Sunday on ESPN from Lucky Strike LA Live in downtown Los Angeles.
Hardwick and Barnes combined for the last nine strikes in the title match to edge Hart and O’Neill for the win. O’Neill could have sewn up the match with a strike on his second ball in the 10th frame, but left a 10-pin.
“This has to be the best celebrity tournament ever,” said Hardwick, who is the son of PBA Hall of Famer Billy Hardwick. “I was excited just watching it, much less bowling in it.
“They were kicking our butts at first and my mindset was to just not get slaughtered,” added Hardwick... I have to admit that the pressure of that match got me a little fatigued, but looking back at it, that may have helped because being a little tired forced me to relax and not over-think it.”
Barnes, one of six PBA Triple Crown winners, struck on all of his shots, including all three in the 10th frame to win the match.
“We had our hands full with those guys,” Barnes said of the Hart/O’Neill team. “They got off to a fast start with the first three strikes, but we didn’t let them get too far away (Barnes and Hardwick started spare-strike-spare). I reminded Chris [Hardwick] that there was a long way to go in the match and anything could happen to turn it around. He threw some clutch strikes in the 5th, 7th and 9th to keep the string going.”
The 2013 fundraiser, benefitting Paul’s CP3 Foundation, returned to a doubles format and showcased several owners and players in the new PBA League. Other tour players competing in addition to Barnes and O’Neill were reigning Player of the Year Sean Rash, five-time tour winner Jason Belmonte, PBA Hall of Famer Norm Duke, four-time tour titlist Mike Fagan, three-time tour winner Osku Palermaa, and two-time PBA regional winner Missy Parkin.
In addition to Paul, Hardwick and Hart, other PBA League owners on hand were former NFL All-Pro receiver Terrell Owens, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley, and actor Jesse Williams. Other celebrities competing were Paul’s Clippers teammate Blake Griffin and former NBA star and ESPN analyst Jalen Rose.
Competition began with two Baker elimination rounds of four doubles teams each, with the highest-scoring team in each bracket advancing to the championship match. The Baker format requires the pro and celebrity to alternate frames in each game.
In the first round, Hardwick, creator of the popular podcasts “The Nerdist” and
“All-Star Celebrity Bowling,” and Barnes, representing their Silver Lake Atom
Splitters team, combined for a 199 game to eliminate Rose and Fagan of the Motown Muscle (190), Owens and Duke of the Dallas Strikers (186), and Williams and Rash of the Brooklyn Styles (143).
In the second round, Philadelphia area natives Hart and O’Neill of the Philadelphia Hitmen advanced to the title match by combining for a 218, outscoring Griffin and Parkin, representing Billie Jean King’s New York WTT KingPins (189); Paul and Belmonte, bowling for L.A. X (182), and Woodley and Palermaa, bowling for the Pittsburgh Jack Rabbits (177).
Between semifinal matches, the celebrities participated in the one-ball “Super
Clash” elimination competition, which was won by actor Quinton Aaron, who played the role of Baltimore Ravens lineman Michael Oher in “The Blindside.” Aaron struck on his seventh shot to edge tournament host Paul, who had a nine-count. Defending champion Williams was eliminated in the 5th frame.