Whitaker and Benevides ‘star’ in basketball game Against NY’s Finest at Madison Square Garden

Tom Kennedy

Legend has it that HPD’s Tim Whitaker and Jose Benevides were drafted by the New York Knicks in the latest round to gather intelligence about “Rocket launches” in order to win the NBA.

Then again there was Whitaker’s hook-shooting abilities and Benevides’ uncanny aptitude for feeding the ball to taller guys in the paint.

This, of course, is the legend. The facts tell a different story, albeit a great fun account out of the Big Apple. The two officers did wind up in Knicks uniforms for a game.

According to legendary sources, here’s what really happened:

HPOU 2nd Vice President (soon to be president) Joe Gamaldi contacted the two officers about heading to New York City for an event sponsored by Foot Locker, Madison Square Garden and the New York Police Department.

The occasion amounted to an all-expense-paid trip that included hotel accommodations and tickets to a Knicks game with the Utah Jazz.

“We didn’t learn until we got on the plane that we were going to be playing in a basketball game against other officers,” Whitaker said with his familiar smile that has his tongue in his cheek.

As it turned out, Foot Locker supplied shoes, the Knicks provided uniforms and coaches and Madison Square Garden, well, furnished a basketball court.

Whitaker said the team he and Benevides played on included officers from Houston, Miami and San Francisco. The team would take the court against NYPD’s finest. Each team included just seven players, so there was no shortage of minutes played – and fatigue in two 20-minute periods of play.

Both Whitaker (Westside Patrol) and Benevides (Narcotics/Midwest) were among HPD personnel whose homes were flooded during Hurricane Harvey. The Miami officers suffered similar flooded conditions (Hurricane Maria), while the San Francisco officers were affected by the overwhelming fires in California.

The New York officers were among those stranded after duties in Puerto Rico after the hurricane devastation throughout the island country.

What happened in the game?

“It ended up being the New York cops versus the vistiting officers,” Benevides told the Badge & Gun during a post-game interview. “They told us we would be taking turns shooting baskets.”

Benevides laughed. “They were out for blood. They were protecting their home court.”

The host sponsors – who wanted to recognize officers victimized by these recent tragedies – provided two former NBA players as coaches. Both played for the Knicks. The Houston-Miami-San Francisco team – who were not known as the Hurricane or the

Fire – were mentored by John Wallace, while NYPD’s coach was former NBA great Latrell Sprewell.

Whitaker was “cagey” about the final score.

“I refuse to answer that question,” he said when pressed. “It’s a little embarrassing. It was 26-13. We lost.

“I didn’t score but I had an awesome hook shot. It just missed the basket by about five feet. I had a rebound and a hook shot that I thought looked real good doing it but apparently not.”

Benevides, at 5-foot-9, claims to have been the smallest player on the court. He didn’t let that stop him from adroitly feeding the ball to the taller Miami and San Francisco stalwarts under the basket.

The officer did claim to have scored two points!

Was there a game film we could view online?

“Benevides and I refuse to release the video without a warrant,” Whitaker stated. There were seven on our team and the other team had seven. Really that was all that was invited. When you looked down that court you wished there was a boatload of more players.”

Both officers said no player on either side were known for their basketball prowess. It was all in good fun.

Tim the Hook said, “They were very good sports. They did a very good job. We lost but it was still a lot of fun.”

As usual with a bunch of police officers, stories of experiences after the floods and fire dominated the conversations in the shared meals before and after the game.

“We visited with people who went through really bad situation,” Benevides the Ball Feeder said. “We were all going through recovery. Me and Tim are still trying to put our houses back together. That 40 minutes of basketball took you away from that. It was a really, really good time, a really great time.”

The police players had floor passes for the real Knicks/Jazz game and were introduced at halftime. They also went down the Garden’s “celebrity row” – a group of celebrities who had come to see the real game. Among that crew was tennis great John McEnroe, boxer Evander Holyfield of Houston and the indomitable Chris Rock.

The losing end of the score and the resulting sore and achy muscles aside, Whitaker and Benevides said they were honored to represent HPD at the Big Apple’s recognition of the strength and endurance of police officers across the nation.